Guizot, Francois Pierre Guillaume (1787-1874), statesman and historian, was born at Nimes of a Huguenot family. After his father's execution (1794) he was brought up at Geneva by his mother. In 1805 he went to study law at Paris, but devoted himself chiefly to literature, and in 1812 was chosen professor of modern history at the Sorbonne. Under the Restoration Government of 1814 he was Secretary-General of the Ministry of the Interior, whence he removed to the Ministry of Justice after the Hundred Days, In 1821 he was driven from office owing to his opposition to the reactionary policy of the Bourbons. During his exclusion from a life of public activity, which lasted until 1828, he put himself forward as the representative of the Doctrinaires, a political school whose ideal was the English constitution, and pursued his historical studies, publishing the Memoires relating to English and French history, the first part of the History of the English Revolution, and the lectures on the History of Civilisation.
After the Revolution of July, 1830, he was at first Minister of the Interior, and subsequently, as Minister of Public Instruction (1832-1836), organised a system of primary education. In 1840 he resided in England for a short time as ambassador, but was recalled by Louis Philippe to take the post of Foreign Minister in a cabinet which was virtually placed under his direction. In 1847 he became Prime Minister in name as well as in fact. His foreign policy was at first very successful. The friendly relations with England, which had been threatened by the warlike policy of Thiers. were maintained until Palmerston's return to office as Foreign Secretary in 1846; but his conduct in regard to the "Spanish Marriage" brought the French Government into discredit, and compelled
Guizot to rely on the support of Austria and other reactionary courts. At the same time he adopted a reactionary policy at home, governing by means of oppression and corruption, and refusing to concede parliamentary reform. He was finally driven from power by the Revolution of 1848, and devoted the remainder of his life to literary and historical studies. After a period of exile in London, he returned to France, and settled at Val Richer, near Lisieux. Guizot was a man of considerable ability and force of character, but he was too narrow-minded to be able to cope with the political difficulties of the time. As an historian he did much to develop critical and scientific methods. Among his chief historical works, besides those already mentioned, were his History of Representative Government, and his Life, Correspondence, and Writings of Washington.