Prof. Lenard Berlanstein Dies

The Corcoran Department of History is saddened to announce the death of Lenard Berlanstein, Commonwealth Professor of History, Emeritus.


Lenny combined brilliant scholarship with deep humanity in a way that endeared him to all. As a scholar of modern France, he influenced the transformation of the historical profession over forty years. His early work was indebted to social history, and he wrote numerous excellent books on French politics, labor, and society, including The Barristers of Toulouse in the Eighteenth Century (1975), The Working People of Paris, 1871-1914 (1984), and Big Business and Industrial Conflict in Nineteenth-Century France: A Social History of the Parisian Gas Company (1991). From the 1990s, he contributed significantly to French cultural history. In 2001, he published Daughters of Eve: A Cultural History of French Theater Women from the Old Regime to the Fin-de-Siecle. He epitomized the historian's craft by combining imagination, creativity, and care in his treatment of the people of the past.

Lenny was a devoted teacher, nurturing undergraduates and graduate students alike. His courses ranged from the history of France to celebrity culture and the history of sexuality; his doctoral students wrote on topics ranging from the history of the Cité Universitaire to the history of photography. Lenny was also a central, and much-beloved, figure in the lives of several generations of French historians. For many years, he served as the Executive Director of the Society for French Historical Studies, the main professional association for French historians in the US. He oversaw the operation of a journal, an annual meeting, a slew of prizes and grants, and the shape and state of the field more generally.  He never missed a meeting.  And it seems especially fitting that in one of the last meetings before his retirement, he won the prize for the best article of the year in French history--for an article on French feminism that was to be the foundation of a book that he did not live long enough to write but that once again showed him venturing into new and exciting historical territory.

Lenny had a modest, calm, and unpretentious manner that shone through when he shared his deep wisdom. His generosity was legendary. He wrote beautiful, concise prose that needed no jargon or artificial embellishments, a prose whose inner self reflected authenticity, sincerity, and imagination: a quiet prose that remains with you long after you turn the last page.

Services will be held in Baltimore at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, at Mount Wilson Lane, on Thursday, February 28, at 12 Noon; interment at Beth El Memorial Park, Randallstown. Please omit flowers. Contributions in his memory may be sent to the University of Virginia Alumni Association, PO Box 400314, Charlottesville, VA 22904. In mourning at 6319 Canter Way, Baltimore, MD 21212, Thursday and Friday. Further information may be found at:

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

tel: (434) 924-7147; fax: (434) 924-7891
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