Charles de Brosses  

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"The actual term “fetishism” was coined in 1757 by Charles de Brosses, an influential lawyer, who wrote Du culte des dieux fétiches" --Auguste Comte: Volume 3: An Intellectual Biography, p 257, Mary Pickering, 2009

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Charles de Brosses (born Dijon, 1709-d. 1777) was one of the most noteworthy French writers of the 18th century. He was a member of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres of Paris (from 1746). He was a close friend of Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707-1788), the naturalist who wrote the Histoire naturelle, and a personal enemy of Voltaire (1694-1778), the famous philosopher, who barred his entry in the Académie française in 1770. Because he opposed the absolute power of the king, he was exiled twice, in 1744 and 1771. During his life, he wrote numerous academic papers on topics concerning ancient history, philology and linguistics, which were used by Diderot and D'Alembert in the Encyclopédie (1751-1765).


De Brosses published five books:

  • Histoire des navigations aux terres australes, contenant ce que l'on sait des moeurs et des productions des contrées découvertes jusqu'à ce jour (1756). This offers a complete digest of all known voyages to the Southern seas, preceded by a long plea for an exploration campaign in these waters, in order to discover and exploit the vast Austral continent which could not fail to be there, for mechanical reasons. It proved extremely useful to James Cook with respect to the discovery of Australia in 1770, and contains what may be the first occurrence of the words "Polynésie" and "Australasie". It has been written that it is this book which convinced the French explorer Loui-Antoine de Bougainville, then a soldier in Canada, to become a sailor and, in his own terms, "do something great".
  • Histoire de la République romaine, dans le cours du VIIe siècle, par Salluste, en partie traduite du latin sur l'original, en partie rétablie et composée sur les fragmens qui sont restés de ses livres perdus (1777). This is a French translation of Sallust’s Historia, partially restored with the help of ancient fragments, and illustrated with topographical maps and archaeological founds.

De Brosses is also remembered for his posthumously published letters:

See also

Du culte des dieux fétiches, French literature, fetishism

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