Jacques Julliard, born on 4 March 1933 in Brénod, Ain, was a multi-faceted personality known for his significant contributions as a historian, columnist, essayist, and union leader. He authored numerous books, which highlighted his profound knowledge and understanding of society and history. This article aims to provide an overview of his life, achievements, and legacy.
Jacques Julliard was born into a family with a strong political background; both his father and grandfather had held the position of mayors in the village of his birth. His education started at the Lycée du Parc in Lyon, where he aimed to enter an École normale supérieure. It was here that two influential teachers close to Emmanuel Mounier shaped his thought process. Initially opting to study German at the École normale supérieure in 1954, he soon shifted his focus to history. After successfully obtaining his agrégation (teaching qualification), Julliard served in the military in Algeria and then pursued a career in secondary school teaching.
Julliard’s commitment to student and worker rights was evident through his leadership roles in multiple unions. He served as the vice president of the National Union of Students of France (UNEF) from 1955-56. Later, he was actively involved in the General Union of National Education (SGEN) of the French Confederation of Christian Workers (CFTC) and the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT).
Julliard’s academic prowess lay in his deep understanding of political and social issues. While he was actively involved in union activities and his role as a columnist, he also focused on academics. His research included a thesis on the trade unionist Fernand Pelloutier. He contributed to the magazine Esprit and held teaching positions at notable institutions such as the Bordeaux campus of Sciences Po, Centre de formation des journalistes, and University of Vincennes. In 1978, he earned a prestigious position as the director of studies at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences.
A significant part of Julliard’s career was dedicated to journalism. Through a connection with Pierre Andreu, he got associated with personalities like Pierre Vidal-Naquet, and together, they directed the Cahiers Georges Sorel. In 1970, an introduction to Jean Daniel by André Gorz opened doors for Julliard at the Nouvel Observateur, where he remained for four decades. Later, he transitioned to the weekly Marianne, under the leadership of Maurice Szafran, and contributed as a columnist.
The end of an era came on 8 September 2023 when Jacques Julliard passed away at the age of 90. His diverse roles and extensive contributions to French society will forever be remembered and celebrated.