[The following passage is from Frances Gies’ excellent book, Joan of Arc: The Legend and the Reality, 1981.]
In 1841 the historical Joan suddenly emerged in a popular form when Jules Michelet, head of the historical section of the French National Archives, published his monumental History of France. The three chapters covering Joan’s story stirred such widespread interest that they were reprinted as a separate volume. Based on the documents, Michelet’s work was a true historical treatment, though its tone reflected the patriotic legend.
The growth of interest in Joan as a historical figure, part of the nineteenth-century flowering of historical scholarship, was climaxed by a decisive event. Jules Quicherat, a professor (later director) at the École des Chartes in Paris, published his Procès de condamnation et de réhabilitation de Jeanne d’Arc, dite la Pucelle (1841–1849), in five volumes, containing not only the complete texts of the trial and the Rehabilitation, but virtually every document of interest pertaining to Joan—excerpts from chronicles, literary works, letters, public documents, extracts from accounts—one of the great early efforts to assemble historical resource material on a single subject.
Quicherat’s work created both a scholarly and a popular revolution in respect to the historical Joan of Arc: the realization that the half-legendary heroine of a distant past existed as a genuine historic figure, about whom much real information was available, and one whose life and personality were far more mysterious and challenging than the caricatures of Shakespeare, Voltaire, and Schiller.
[The following passage is from Joan of Arc: Her Story, 1999, by Regine Pernoud and Marie-Véronique Clin.]
If any person from the past is an apt historical subject—that is, one with a verifiable history, founded on documents rigourously sifted by the most demanding historical methods—that person is Joan of Arc. She surprised her contemporaries just as she surprises us; there is scarcely a chronicle or memoir from her time and place that does not mention her. She is amply evident in public and private letters, and on the pages of the register of the Parlement of Paris. Above all, we possess the texts of two of the contemporary trials she underwent, the first during her life, the other (which we call the nullification trial) only decades after her death, represented in each case by three authentic manuscripts bearing the signatures of notaries. No historian legitimately uses the term “legend” in connection with such heavily attested life records, but since her life continued to interest succeeding ages, “legends” developed about Joan, and her fame—a mixture of history and myth—now extends across the globe.
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