The French writer and activist Flora Tristan (1803-1844) was an important and original thinker noteworthy for her synthesis of feminism and socialism. But she died aged just 41, and left relatively little published work. Jules Puech (1879-1957) rediscovered Tristan as a postgraduate student in Paris in the early 1900s and subsequently devoted decades of his life to researching her life and work, publishing a detailed biography in 1925.
In her book In the Footsteps of Flora Tristan: A Political Biography, Professor Máire Fedelma Cross provides a double biography of Tristan and Puech based on an extensive study of unpublished letters and documents, many still owned by the Puech family. The book looks in detail at how Jules Puech and his wife Marie-Louise Puech interpreted Tristan’s life and work through the prism of their own activism as students of Proudhonism and militant pacifists.
Professor Cross talked about her research and reflected on her study of Puech and Tristan in the Society for the Study of Labour History’s 2021 annual lecture. Titled A double biography for labour history: a case study of Flora Tristan and Jules Puech, the lecture was delivered from the John Rylands Library to a hybrid in-person and online audience on Saturday 20 November, 2021, and can be viewed below.
Professor Cross is Emerita Professor of French Studies at Newcastle University; Trustee and Former President of the Society for the Study of French History, and Honorary Vice President of the Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France.
Dr Joan Allen, chair of the Society for the Study of Labour History, introduced Professor Cross before the lecture, noting that In the Footsteps of Flora Tristan: A Political Biography, was published in 2020 as volume 14 in the Studies in Labour History book series. The series is published by the Society in association with Liverpool University Press.