ANNALES HISTORIQUES DE LA RÉVOLUTION FRANÇAISE Nº404 (2/2021)
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During the 1970s and 1980s, Michel Vovelle played a leading role in the emergence and definition of the history of death. His thesis, published in 1973, Piété baroque et déchristianisation en Provence au xviiie siècle, based on a serial study of the clauses of wills, revealed the change in collective attitudes towards the afterlife in the last decades of the Ancien Regime, before the French Revolution. His study of the iconography of altarpieces depicting souls in purgatory in Provence (1969) proposed a serial analysis of paintings and sculptures considered as historical sources. He elucidated the sculptures of the “mysterious monument” erected in 1792 by Joseph Sec in Aix-en-Provence, demonstrating that Sec had wanted to transmit a discourse on the Revolution, and discourses on attitudes towards life. He also undertook a quantitative study of the gravestones in Provençal cemeteries. His great synthesis, La Mort et l’Occident de 1300 à nos jours (1983) provoked an interesting debate with Philippe Ariès, and remains one of his principal works.