Theodore Zeldin


Biography of Theodore Zeldin

Theodore Zeldin (born 22 August 1933, British Mandate of Palestine), President of the Oxford Muse Foundation, is an English philosopher, sociologist, historian, writer and public speaker.

Zeldin was born into a Jewish family in Palestine and went to school in Egypt and at Aylesbury Grammar School. He entered Birkbeck College, London when he was 15, graduating in 1951. He then pursued a further undergraduate degree at Christ Church, Oxford, before studying for his DPhil at St Antony's College, Oxford.

Zeldin was first known as a historian of France but is today probably most famous internationally as the author of An Intimate History of Humanity (1994), a book which probes the personal preoccupations of people in many different civilisations, both in the past and in the present; it illuminates the way emotions, curiosities, relationships and fears have evolved through the centuries, and how they might have evolved differently. Since then he has focused on how work can be made less boring and frustrating, how conversation can be less superficial, and how individuals can be more honest with one another, putting their masks aside.

Zeldin's masterpiece is A History of French Passions (originally published as France, 1848–1945 in the Oxford History of Modern Europe), an idiosyncratic work examining the ambitions and frustrations, intellectual and imaginative life, tastes and prejudices of a vast range of people. The idea of France as a common unity is not easily discernible in this multi-volume book, and there is very little about politics in the conventional sense, although there are essays on the national appeal of Bonapartism and other cultural elements of French national politics.

In 2007, Zeldin was appointed to a committee advising the French government of Nicolas Sarkozy on labour market reforms. Zeldin is the uncle of theatre and opera director Alexander Zeldin.

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