Passing of M. Michel Duchein (1926-2021)

It is with great sadness that ICA announces the death on 5 August 2021, at the age of 94, of Mr Michel Duchein, Honorary Inspector General of the Archives of France.

Born on 4 December 1926 in Sedan (Ardennes), he obtained the diploma of archivist palaeographer from the École des Chartes in 1949. Appointed assistant archivist (1949) and then chief archivist (1950) of the Haute-Vienne (in Limoges), he joined the Archives de France in 1954. Appointed to the "technical service", a service in charge of managing departmental, municipal and hospital archives, he became its head from 1956 to 1978, when he was promoted to inspector general of archives. He retired in 1991 at the age of 65 and began a new career as a historian.

Michel Duchein's work, both theoretical and practical, has left its mark on generations of archivists in France and abroad. The Études d'archivistique, 1957-1992, a collection of his main articles, is a special issue of the Gazette des archives, of which he was the editorial secretary from 1956 to 1976. He was responsible for the organisation of the annual congresses of the Archives of France, was the first to design and publish a guide to departmental archives (that of the Haute-Vienne, in 1954), and designed and coordinated the first Manuel d'archivistique (in 1970). 

His pioneering contribution is recognised in the construction of archive buildings; his work on Les bâtiments et équipements d'archives, published in 1966, has been a reference both in France and abroad, where several countries have sought his expertise for the construction of their archive buildings. Editor-in-chief of the journal Archivum from 1968 to 1984, he chaired the ICA Committee on Archival Buildings and Equipment from 1988 to 1991. A specialist in the organisation of archives worldwide, he was the instigator and principal drafter of the 1979 Archives Act, in conjunction with Jean Favier, Director General of the Archives of France.

Bilingual in French and English and a great lover of detective novels, Michel Duchein translated several of them and wrote one himself in 1965, under the pseudonym of Marc Delory, Bateau en Espagne, which won the Grand Prix de littérature policière. A historian specialising in the Tudor and Stuart periods, he received numerous awards for his post-retirement works on James I, Elizabeth I, 50 années qui ébranlèrent l’Angleterre. Les deux Révolutions du XVIIe siècle, and the history of Scotland, which has been translated into several languages. In 1995 he also published volume III (889 p.) of the Archives de l'Occident, a collection directed by Jean Favier: Les Temps modernes 1559-1700.

Renowned for his courtesy, his immense culture, and his modesty, Michel Duchein leaves a great void behind him.