Arthur Giry - Encyclopedia

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GIRY (JEAN MARIE JOSEPH), Arthur (1848-1899), French historian, was born at Trevoux (Ain) on the 29th of February 1848. After rapidly completing his classical studies at the lycee at Chartres, he spent some time in the administrative service and in journalism. He then entered the Ecole des Chartes, where, under the influence of J. Quicherat, he developed a strong inclination to the study of the middle ages. The lectures at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes, which he attended from its foundation in 1868, revealed his true bent; and henceforth he devoted himself almost entirely to scholarship. He began modestly by the study of the municipal charters of St Omer. Having been appointed assistant lecturer and afterwards full lecturer at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes, it was to the town of St Omer that he devoted his first lectures and his first important work, Histoire de la vile de Saint-Omer et de ses institutions jusqu'au XI V e siecle (1877). He, however, soon realized that the charters of one town can only be understood by comparing them with those of other towns, and he was gradually led to continue the work which Augustin Thierry had broadly outlined in his studies on the Tiers Etat. A minute knowledge of printed books and a methodical examination of departmental and communal archives furnished him with material for a long course of successful lectures, which gave rise to some important works on municipal history and led to a great revival of interest in the origins and significance of the urban communities in France. Giry himself published Les Etablissements de Rouen (1883-1885), a study, based on very minute researches, of the charter granted to the capital of Normandy by Henry II.; king of England, and of the diffusion of similar charters throughout the French dominions of the Plantagenets; a collection of Documents sur les relations de la royaute avec les villes de France de 1180 a 1314 (1885); and Etude sur les origines de la commune de Saint-Quentin (1887). About this time personal considerations induced Giry to devote the greater part of his activity to the study of diplomatic, which had been much neglected at the Ecole des Chartes, but had made great strides in Germany. As assistant (1883) and successor (1885) to Louis de Mas Latrie, Giry restored the study of diplomatic, which had been founded in France by Dom Jean 1Vlabillon, to its legitimate importance. In 1894 he published his Manuel de diplomatique, a monument of lucid and wellarranged erudition, which contained the fruits of his long experience of archives, original documents and textual criticism; and his pupils, especially those at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes,. soon caught his enthusiasm. With their collaboration he undertook the preparation of an inventory and, subsequently, of a. critical edition of the Carolingian diplomas. By arrangement with E. Miihlbacher and the editors of the Monumenta Germaniae historica, this part of the joint work was reserved for Giry. Simultaneously with this work he carried on the publication of the annals of the Carolingian epoch on the model of the German Jahrbitcher, reserving for himself the reign of Charles the Bald. Of this series his pupils produced in his lifetime Les Derniers Carolingiens (by F. Lot, 1891), Eudes, comte de Paris et roi de France (by E. Favre, 1893), and Charles le Simple (by Eckel, 1899). The biographies of Louis IV. and Hugh Capet and the history of the kingdom of Provence were not published until after his death, and his own unfinished history of Charles the Bald was left to be completed by his pupils. The preliminary work on the Carolingian diplomas involved such lengthy and costly researches that the Academie des Inscriptions et BellesLettres took over the expenses after Giry's death.

In the midst of these multifarious labours Giry found time for extensive archaeological researches, and made a special study of the medieval treatises dealing with the technical processes employed in the arts and industries. He prepared a new edition of the monk Theophilus's celebrated treatise, Diversarum artium schedula, and for several years devoted his Saturday mornings to laboratory research with the chemist Aline Girard at the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, the results of which were utilized by Marcellin Berthelot in the first volume (1894) of his Chimie au moyen dge. Giry took an energetic part in the Collection de textes relatifs a l'histoire du moyen dge, which was due in great measure to his initiative. He was appointed director of the section of French history in La Grande Encyclopedie, and contributed more than a hundred articles, many of which, e.g. " Archives" and "Diplomatique," were original works. In collaboration with his pupil Andre Reville, he wrote the chapters on "L'Emancipation des villes, les communes et les bourgeoisies" and "Le Commerce et l'industrie au moyen age" for the Histoire generate of Lavisse and Rambaud. Giry took a keen interest in politics, joining the republican party and writing numerous articles in the republican newspapers, mainly on historical subjects. He was intensely interested in the Dreyfus case, but his robust constitution was undermined by the anxieties and disappointments occasioned by the Zola trial and the Rennes court-martial, and he died in Paris on the 13th of November 1899.

For details of Giry's life and works see the funeral orations published in the Bibliothbque de l'Ecole des Charles, and afterwards in a pamphlet (1899). See also the biography by Ferdinand Lot in the Annuaire de l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes for 1901; and the bibliography of his works by Henry Maistre in the Correspondance historique et archeologique (1899 and 1900).

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