In Memoriam: Lenard R. Berlanstein

Lenard R. Berlanstein, Commonwealth Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Virginia, died Feb. 24 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. He was 65.

Berlanstein joined the Corcoran Department of History in U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences in 1973 and specialized in modern European cultural history. He retired two years ago.

His colleagues, Alon Confino and Sophie Rosenfeld, wrote about him on the history website: “Lenny was a devoted teacher, nurturing undergraduates and graduate students alike. ... [He] was also a central, and much-beloved, figure in the lives of several generations of French historians. For many years, he served as the executive director of the Society for French Historical Studies, the main professional association for French historians in the U.S.”

They said he “combined brilliant scholarship with deep humanity in a way that endeared him to all.” 

His books on French politics, labor and society included “The Barristers of Toulouse in the Eighteenth Century,” “The Working People of Paris, 1871-1914” and “Big Business and Industrial Conflict in Nineteenth-Century France: A Social History of the Parisian Gas Company.”

From the 1990s, he contributed significantly to French cultural history. In 2001, he published “Daughters of Eve: A Cultural History of French Theater Women from the Old Regime to the Fin-de-Siecle.” 

Confino and Rosenfeld praised his writing: “He wrote beautiful, concise prose that needed no jargon or artificial embellishments, a prose whose inner self reflected authenticity, sincerity and imagination: a quiet prose that remains with you long after you turn the last page.”

Paul Halliday, another history professor, said Berlanstein “was a remarkable historian. His students, his colleagues, and everyone who read his scholarship knew that. But his most remarkable qualities were generosity and modesty. He will be sorely missed.”

Services were held Thursday in Baltimore. He will be remembered at a University memorial event later in the spring.

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Anne E. Bromley

University News Associate Office of University Communications