Book Review: Christophe Charle, Birth of the Intellectuals: 1880-1900

Document Type

Book Review


Published in: the website of the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy.


J’accuse! The 2015 English translation of Christophe Charle’s modern French classic is well overdue. (It was first published in 1990.) In this book, Charle traces the decades before and after the Dreyfus Affair (which began with Albert Dreyfus’ conviction for treason in 1894), particularly the birth and drastic change involved in the category “intellectual,” and the division of intellectuals into the left and the right. The book is organized into two parts: Part One is titled “Intellectuals before the Intellectuels,” and Part Two, “Intellectuels and the Field of Power.” It ends with a helpful group of relevant charts and statistical data, as well as a separate, “Conclusion to the English Edition.” This work is indispensable for anyone interested in the history of the title and practice of being an “intellectual,” especially for those interested in the “leading class” of the 1870s up through the “elites” of the 1890s.