In memoriam - Jean Favier (02.04.1932 - 12.08.2014)


Among his many achievements Jean Favier was host of the ICA Congress in Paris in 1988 and then ICA President from 1988 to 1992.  He died on 12 August, and his funeral took place on 4 September.  A mass celebrating his life and that of his wife Lucie was held in the Eglise des Blancs-Manteaux, Paris, on 2 October.  Here we publish a tribute to him written by Danièle Neirinck, who worked closely with him in the Archives of France for many years and who herself played a key role in the organization of the ICA Congress in 1988.


The scene was set at the end of the morning of 26 August 1988 in the large auditorium of the Palace of Congresses at Porte Maillot in Paris.  François Mitterrand, President of France, came in person to close the 11th International Congress on Archives.  For Jean Favier, Director-General of the Archives of France, to whom Hans Booms, President of the Bundesarchiv in West Germany was about to hand over the Presidency of the International Council on Archives for four years, it was a fitting climax of a ‘fabulous decade', as he was fond of saying to his close colleagues.  Under the banner of the International Council on Archives, the Congress in Paris attracted more than 2000 archivists (1600 were expected) representing 202 countries and 20 international organizations.  The Congress had as its theme ‘the new archives'.  With hindsight, one can say that it was the last Congress of archivists which took place without much use of information technology.

For Jean Favier it was a defining moment of his life in the Archives.  He readily recognized this, for he was extremely aware of the leading role that France had played in the organization of the international community of archivists since the end of world war two. He therefore did his utmost, during the twenty years or so that he was at the head of the Archives of France, to ensure that France maintained the position which his predecessors had given it.

However, nothing in his previous career indicated that he would one day become Director General of the Archives of France. He was a graduate of the Ecole nationale des chartes (class of 1956), winner of the prix de Rome, a mediaeval historian specializing in Enguerrand de Marigny, Phillip the Fair and papal finances during the period of the great schism, after gaining the agrégration in history in order to pursue a career in teaching.  When he rather suddenly succeeded Guy Duboscq in this onerous position in 1975, he had been director of studies at the Ecole pratique des hautes études (4th section) since 1965 and professor at the University of Paris-Sorbonne since 1969.


This historian with a world-wide reputation was also a great administrator and he left an indelible imprint on the Archives of France which he headed for twenty years.  He demonstrated his managerial and administrative talents in preparing between 1984 and 1988 the truly exceptional congress with a handful of colleagues in whom he had entire confidence: the team of the technical department of the Directorate of the Archives of France, the head of which, Arnaud Ramière de Fortanier, thereby become ‘the congress director', supported by curators in the department, who were fewer in number than the fingers of one hand.  However, Noël Pinzutti joined their ranks and thereby become assistant congress director.  The team was greatly helped by some curators in the National Archives.  I had the great privilege of being part of this group and I remember with great pleasure our labours, which could sometimes be very physical (we did everything, even some handling), and especially the profound friendship, which united us all and which endures a quarter of a century later. We owe this to Jean Favier, who knew how to create teams and who added, to the qualities that I have just recalled, that of fidelity in friendship.  Every ten years he reminded us in a few words of these days which had counted for a lot in his life and repeated his gratitude.  In these lines sent ten and twenty years afterwards he expressed the essence of his character.