Bernard Cottret, born in 1951 at Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, is a French Historian and literary scholar.
Stemming from a family of artists and musicians, Bernard (Jean) Cottret is the son of Bernard Cottret (1923–2011) and Geneviève Aurel († 1999), classical singers and soloists. His only son Yann is also a musician. He studied at the lycée Descartes in Rabat and at the lycée Chaptal in Paris, where he met his wife, Monique Cottret, née Astruc, also a historian, before graduating from the École Normale Supérieure Lettres et Sciences Humaines. Serving as a linguist at the Centre de Langues et Etudes Etrangères Militaires in 1977-78, he left the army as a lieutenant in the French reserve and after a few years at the Sorbonne and at the university of Lille, as assistant- and then as full professor, he was from 1992 to 2011 professor of British civilization and history at the Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines University, where he is now Professor Emeritus.
He is now retired and lives in the country; he is also an occasional lay preacher in the United Protestant Church of France. He founded and chaired the department of humanities of his university, and established close links with the College of Charleston, SC, where he held a summer seminar in 1994. Cottret is also a fellow of the Institut Universitaire de France, and a member of the Institut de Recherches sur les Civilisations de l'Occident Moderne, Paris-Sorbonne. Cottret is the author and editor of more than forty volumes, which address the history of the British Isles, colonial America, France and Europe in a comparative perspective. He also authored fifty chapters in various books and forty articles in academic journals, not to mention numerous radio or television interviews and broadcasts. Some of these contributions have been translated into English, German, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, Japanese, Korean, Turkish and Georgian. Several essays deal with the Protestant Reformation and religious issues, in relation with politics. He has given over 250 lectures in France, Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, the Czech Republic, Canada and the United States. He has organized annual summer seminars in partnership with Potsdam and some Polish associates.
It is primarily as a historian that he approached the Protestant Reformation, reading Lucien Febvre and benefiting from the enlightened teachings of Robert Mandrou and Élisabeth Labrousse. Jean Delumeau and Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie have also greatly influenced him at a later stage; the friendship of Jean Malaurie, of Laurent Theis, of Marianne Carbonnier, Bertrand Van Ruymbeke and some others have confirmed his intellectual and spiritual acumen, favoring freedom of expression and thought over conformism and political correctness. The Huguenots in England, published in 1991, uses the French Protestant diaspora to understand English society in the early modern period. In 1993, Christopher Hill welcomed in Renaissance Quarterly (Renaissance Quarterly) "a very interesting book, on a subject insufficiently explored by English-speaking historians. Professor Cottret begins with some useful remarks, of contemporary relevance, on immigration, past and present, and problems of adaptation, both for the immigrants and for the host country. In England the Huguenot churches maintained their cultural independence at the price of firm control by pastors and elders, striving to preserve the purity of Calvinist doctrine against the temptations of a differently authoritarian Anglican church and of the easier-going dissenting congregations”. He went on “for English-speaking readers the main interest of the story lies in the new angle of vision which it offers on English social development in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries". Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 46, No. 4 (Winter, 1993), pp. 831–832. The American edition of Calvin: A Biography (2000) was well received and described by the publication of The Institute on Religion and Public Life as the best of recent biographies.
From 1988 to 2002, Bernard Cottret was a member of the steering committee of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. In 1988 he defended at the Paris West University Nanterre La Défense a thesis in English literature dedicated to Bolingbroke who became for eighteenth-century Frenchmen the typical "philosophe anglois" and greatly influenced Voltaire and Montesquieu. It led, at the request of Jonathan Clark, to a book in English devoted to the political work of Bolingbroke, and the Conservative Enlightenment.
The Académie française awarded several of his books (Monseigneur-Marcel history prize, silver medal in 1992 for Cromwell, François-Millepierres history prize in 2003 for the La Révolution américaine). He also received in 1997 the prix Budget from the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres for Calvin, and more recently with his wife Monique Cottret, the Académie des sciences morales et politiques 2006 award Pierre-Georges Castex for French Literature for Jean-Jacques Rousseau en son temps. In July 2011 The Académie des Sciences Morales et Politiques awarded him the Charles-Aubert-Histoire prize for the whole of his historical productions.
Bernard Cottret was among the founders of the Prix national du livre médiéval : Provins patrimoine mondial (National Book award medieval : Provins World Heritage), which first went to Michel Pastoureau for his book L’Ours, histoire d’un roi déchu (The Bear story of a fallen king) in September 2007. That same year, he was appointed a member of the André Kaspi Committee on public commemorations, by the defense secretary in charge of veterans. He later participated in the 2012 Jean-Jacques Rousseau committee for national celebrations at the Ministry of Culture. His notice is published in Contemporary Authors and Who's Who in France