Raynal, Guillaume-Thomas-François, abbé (1713-1796)

Well-known philosophe and writer. Educated by the Jesuits. Went to Paris, where he wrote sermons for the priest at Saint-Sulpice and was briefly employed as a tutor (1747). Became an editor of the Mercure de France. Published a series of successful works on political and historical subjects including: Histoire du Parlement d’Angleterre (London, 1748); Anecdotes littéraires (Paris, 1750); and Anecdotes historiques, militaires et politiques de l’Europe (Amsterdam, 1753).

Best known for his Histoire philosophique et politique des établissemens et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes (4 vols., Amsterdam, 1770), to which Diderot, the baron d’Holbach, and others contributed. A revised, expanded, and more radical edition of the Histoire philosophique et politique …, published in Geneva in 1780 and outspoken in its criticism of the ancien régime, was condemned by the Parlement, forcing Raynal to flee (1781). Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, A Letter adressed to the abbé Raynal on the affairs of North America, was one of the many works written to criticize or refute Raynal’s account of the American Revolution.

Allowed to return to the provinces (1784). Was elected to the States General, but refused to serve (1789). In an address to the National Assembly, he refuted many of his former views, renounced radicalism, and called for a constitutional monarchy.

Born at Rodez.