Obituary: Eugen Weber, Historian and Former Dean of UCLA’s College of Letters and Science
Eugen Weber, an
internationally renowned historian and former dean of UCLA's
A member of UCLA's faculty since 1956 and a prolific author, Weber wrote about French culture and politics in the 19th and 20th centuries, anti-Semitism and the origins of the Holocaust, fascism, intellectual history, and many other subjects. He served as dean from 1977 to 1982 and held a UCLA endowed chair in modern European history, which is now named for him.
Weber was a brilliant scholar with an elegant writing style, extremely
wide-ranging interests and a wonderful sense of humor," said UCLA Acting
Chancellor Norman Abrams. "He was a stimulating teacher of Western civilization
and European history and an exceptional leader of our
"I consider Eugen Weber one of the world's great historians," said Patricia O'Brien, executive dean of the UCLA College of Letters and Science. "He did it all. He transformed the writing of modern French history through his various works and his pathbreaking book on the French peasantry. He had a distinguished career as an administrator who then returned to his research and teaching with renewed passion. He was tireless, not least of all in his generosity to his colleagues. Eugen was a model of a passionately committed scholar and teacher and a superb administrator."
Weber, whose books and
articles have been translated into more than half a dozen languages, earned
many accolades for his scholarship, including membership in the
He was regarded by colleagues and students as a superb teacher of Western civilization and European history. His 1,300-page "Modern History of Europe," a widely used Western civilization textbook that combines cultural, intellectual and political history, is "a phenomenal job of synthesis and interpretation that reflects Eugen's wide and deep learning," Weber's former history colleague, the late Hans Rogger, once said. "It is the most lively, interesting and challenging text that generations of students are likely to see."
Weber's scholarship included the lives of common people and the commonplace aspects of life, including the small towns of the 19th century.
"A lot of life," Weber said, "is about things so trivial we do not bother to record them — only sometimes to note their absence, as with manners."
was born in
His curiosity about rural
"I thought I knew
Weber's study of 19th-century
"Building a French nation was
a long struggle pitting the dominant culture of
Studying life in 19th-century
Weber found that anything having to do with "justices" was a cause of fear to French peasants, who were overwhelmed by official documents and for whom the legal costs of settling an inheritance, when there was one, might amount to three-fourths of the estate. The peasants' view of the law was contained in evening prayers, which included the line, "Deliver us from all evil and from justice," and the proverb, "Process servers are rascals, lawyers are lickspittles, attorneys are thieves."
In a chapter on family life,
Weber wrote that marriage in rural
"The families had the last word, and the first too, most often," he said. "One married a family, not a woman or a man, and the families did the marrying … If marrying into a family one knew could be an ordeal, then marrying a stranger was decidedly worse. Where each community was a law to itself, in-laws unfamiliar with its customs, ways and turns of speech felt and were made to feel even more like strangers."
Weber's other books included "Varieties of Fascism," "France, Fin de Siècle," "The Hollow Years" and "Apocalypses."
Weber said he wrote for his wife, Jacqueline, to whom he was married for nearly 57 years and who survives him.
"She is cultivated and curious and has taste, but she is not a specialist," he said. "Sometimes we have terrific fights. I say, 'How can you not understand this? It's clear,' and she says, 'It is not clear, it is convoluted.' Then I rewrite, and it's an improvement."
Of the many subjects on which
Weber wrote, the one he returned to most was
"The more you know about a period, the more you want to know about it," he said. "I'm at home in this period. I keep going back home."