John Templeton Foundation

Alain Besançon
Grace Davie
Timothy Garton Ash
Roger Kimball
Leszek Kolakowski
Steven M. Lukes
Krzysztof Michalski
Alan C. Montefiore
Krzysztof Pomian
Gesine Schwan
Janet Martin Soskice

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A renowned French historian and culture critic, Alain Besançon is an expert on Russian politics and intellectual history who serves as honorary director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. He presides over the philosophy section of the Institut de France’s Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques. Educated at the Collège Stanislas and at the Lycée Louis le Grand in Paris, he went on to study at the Ecoles des Sciences Politiques and at the Sorbonne where he earned a diploma in history. He was awarded a doctorate in history in 1967 and a doctorate in letters and human sciences a decade later. Dr. Besançon first taught at the Lycée de Montpellier and then at the Lycée Carnot in Tunis and the Lycée Pasteur in Neuilly. In 1960, he was appointed to the staff of the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, and he was subsequently a research associate at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg and at Columbia University. He joined the faculty of EHESS as a lecturer in 1965 and was named associate director of studies in 1969 and director six years later, a post he held until 1993. Dr. Besançon has been a visiting professor at the University of Rochester and at the Universidad del Norte Santo Tomás de Aquino in San Miguel de Tucumán, Argentina, a visiting scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Princeton University, and a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He was an editorial writer for L’Express for five years and regularly contributes to Le Fiagaro. An officier of the Légion d’Honneur, an officier of the Palmes Académiques, and a member of the Académie Scientiarum et Artium Europaea and the Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques, he is the recipient of the Prix de l’Essai of the Académie Française and of an honorary degree from the University of Moscow. Dr. Besançon is a member of the editorial boards of Cahiers du Monde Russe and of Commentaire. In addition to more than three hundred papers published in academic journals, he is the author or co-author of twenty books, including Une Génération (1987), winner of Prix d’Historie of the Académie Française, and L’Image Interdite: Une Historie Intellectuelle de l’Iconoclasme (1994), awarded both the Grand Prix d’Historie Chateaubriand-La Vallée aux Loups and the Médaille de Fondation Michel Perret. Published in English to wide acclaim as The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm (2000), it traces the privileging and prohibition of religious images over a span of two and a half millennia in the West. His most recent book, La Malheur du Siècle: Communisme, Nazisme et l’Unicité de la Shoah (Fayard, 1998), was published in English earlier this year as A Century of Horrors: Communism, Nazism, and the Uniqueness of the Shoah, and in it, the historian turns to theology as the only resource that can shed even feeble illumination on how we remember ideologies responsible for incalculable destruction.