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Durkheim's 1906 Election to a Chair at the Sorbonne

W. S. F. Pickering

It is well known that Durkheim’s appointment to the Sorbonne in 1902 was to take up a post in education which became vacant when Ferdinand Buisson left the University to enter politics’ service once more. Buisson had been Director of Primary Education between 1879 and 1896. Durkheim’s appointment was initially as chargé du cours de Science de l’Education, although in Bordeaux he had held professorial rank. In the Paris appointment there was no mention of sociology. Then in 1906 it was decided that the time had come to fill the chair of the Science of Education. It was for the Faculty in the Sorbonne under the chairmanship of the Dean, A. Croiset, to nominate a candidate to the Minister of Higher Education. In the minutes of the Conseil de la Faculté for 16 June, 1906, it is by no means the case that Durkheim, who was a strong candidate, was without serious opposition.1 As is seen below, Bouglé, who was then in Toulouse, was not far behind him and Durkheim’s success was in no way a walk-over. It might also be noticed that Durkheim was not universally popular among teachers at the Sorbonne, let alone among Parisian academics outside the university (see Lukes 1973:363).

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