Le présent suffit-il à faire l'histoire?

Translated title of the contribution: Is the present sufficient for history?

Emmanuelle Labeau*, Thomas Holyoak

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our study discusses the ability of the présent historique, a tense « plus abstrait et donc plus difficile à comprendre » [more abstract and therefore more difficult to understand] (Béguin 1998, p. 36), to replace the passé simple (PS) in historical narration. It is based on a diachronic corpus of extracts taken from history books on the French Revolution, ranging from the beginning of the 19th century to the end of the 20th century. Firstly, we justify the primacy of the passé simple for historical narrative, while considering the wider areas of tense and aspect. After a description of the corpus and a summary of the hypotheses under study, we present our quantitative results with the aim of assessing the use of the présent historique in the corpus in comparison with other tenses. Finally, we study our corpus from a qualitative perspective and we try to conclude upon our initial hypotheses. © Revue Romane.

Translated title of the contributionIs the present sufficient for history?
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)16-31
Number of pages16
JournalRevue romane
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Bibliographical note

Department of Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen; distributed by Wiley-Blackwell (Blackwell Publishing). The definitive version is available at www.blackwell-synergy.com


  • past historic
  • present historic
  • tense
  • aspect
  • history books
  • modern French


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