Cover: The Early Foucault by Stuart Elden

This book is the third of four major intellectual histories of Michel Foucault, exploring newly released archival material and covering the French thinker’s entire academic career.

Foucault’s Last Decade was published by Polity in 2016.
Foucault: The Birth of Power was published in 2017.
The Archaeology of Foucault will publish in the early 2020s.

The Early Foucault

Stuart Elden



As a part of a series of books on Foucault, a project which has been intermittent since 2000 and intense since 2013, there is a continuing and overlapping debt to those thanked before.

I particularly thank Mark Kelly for sparking the initial idea; Margaret Atack for sharing David Macey’s correspondence and interview transcripts from his research for The Lives of Michel Foucault; Aner Barzilay for conversations on the early Foucault and sharing transcriptions of student notes; Didier Eribon for allowing me to see Foucault’s letters to Georges Dumézil; Stefanos Geroulanos for sharing other material by Dumézil; Laurent Feneyrou for access to the Foucault–Jean Barraqué correspondence; Paul Griffiths for his notes on that correspondence; and Daniele Lorenzini for conversations about Foucault and the posthumous publication programme. I remain grateful to Daniel Defert and Henri-Paul Fruchaud. At a late stage, Daniele and Alison Downham Moore generously read the entire manuscript and made some useful suggestions.

For the first time I have employed research assistants to help with some foreign language material. Oscar Jängnemyr provided summaries or translations of Swedish texts about Foucault’s time in Uppsala; Julia Jasińska summarized a Polish book; Federico Testa summarized Alessandro de Lima Francisco and Marcio Luiz Miotto’s unpublished Portuguese theses, which they kindly sent to me; and Melissa Pawelski located some archival documents, shared notes, and translated a key text about Foucault’s time in Hamburg.

I gratefully acknowledge the British Academy/Leverhulme small grant SRG1819\191434, supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and the Department of Politics and International Studies and the Humanities Research Centre at the University of Warwick for funding archival visits.

For access to archival material I thank the Archives littéraires suisses, Berne; Archives Nationales, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine; Bibliothèque interuniversitaire Sorbonne; Bibliothèque Lettres Ulm, École Normale Supérieure; Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra; Bibliothèque nationale de France-Richelieu, archives et manuscrits, especially Laurence le Bras; Bibliothèque nationale de France-Richelieu-Louvois, département de musique; Nathalie Queyroux and David Denéchaud at the Centre d’Archives en Philosophie, History et Édition des Sciences (CAPHÉS), École Normale Supérieure; Carolina Rediviva Library, special collections room, Uppsala University; Collège de France; Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC), Caen; Staats- und Unibibliothek Hamburg; Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Staatsarchiv Thurgau, Frauenfeld; Universitätsarchiv Tübingen; and Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Peter Harrington Books in Chelsea allowed me to consult a rare copy of the pre-thesis version of Folie et déraison.

I have used several other libraries to find material for this study: Bibliothèque nationale de France–François Mitterand; Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève; Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; British Library Rare Books room and Newsroom; Senate House Library; the Tate Library; the Warburg Institute; Wellcome Library; and the libraries of the University of Amsterdam, Columbia University, London School of Economics, University College London and University of Warwick. Warwick staff were very helpful in getting hard-to-find material through the document supply service.

Several other people encouraged, sourced texts or answered questions, and I am grateful to them all: Valentina Antoniol, Christian Abrahamsson, Edward Baring, Elisabetta Basso, Luiza Bialasiewicz, Ryan Bishop, Giuseppe Blanco, Natalie Bouchard, Kurt Borg, Neil Brenner, Chris Brooke, Sebastian Budgen, Graham Burchell, Douglas Burnham, Oliver Davis, Alfred Denker, Elgin Diaz, Klaus Dodds, ‘Ambulo Ergosum’, Mike Featherstone, Colin Gordon, G. M. Goshgarian, Kélina Gotman, Victor Gourevitch, Anna Gumucio Ramberg, Peter Gratton, Inanna Hamati-Ataya, Bernard Harcourt, Marcelo Hoffman, Richard Howard, Luke Ilott, Orazio Irrera, Scott Johnson, Gerry Kearns, Philipp Kender, Anna Krakus, Léopold Lambert, Scott Lash, Stephen Legg, Kai Frederik Lorentzen, Jeff Malpas, Eduardo Mendieta, José Luis Moreno Pestaña, Adam David Morton, Rainer Nicolaysen, Hidefumi Nishiyama, Clare O’Farrell, Gunnar Olsson, Mate Paksy, William Parkhurst, Paul Patton, ‘Petra’, Lucas Pohl, Sverre Raffnsøe, John Duke Raimo, Simon Reid-Henry, John Russell, Parastou Saberi, Philippe Sabot, Christopher Smith, Bal Sokhi-Bulley, Robert A. Tally, Cristina Vatulescu, Nick Vaughan-Williams, Pierre Vesperini, Jean-Baptiste Vuillerod, David Webb, Richard Wilson, and Andreja Zevnik.

I also thank the readers of my Progressive Geographies blog who followed this project through its development. Some resources produced during this work are available at

Work in this book was presented to audiences at ACCESS Europe, University of Amsterdam; Complutense University of Madrid; Institute of Historical Research, University of London; University of Sussex; Theory, Culture and Society; and University of Warwick. Planned talks at the University of Bologna, New York University and University of Oxford were unfortunately cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Late stages of the research were conducted around travel restrictions and partial lockdown, and the manuscript completed in challenging academic circumstances. For support in this, and much else, I thank Susan.

At Polity Press I am grateful to Pascal Porcheron, Ellen Macdonald-Kramer, and John Thompson, and the readers of the original proposal for their enthusiasm for my work. In particular I thank Pascal and two anonymous readers for their comments on the manuscript. Susan Beer copy-edited the text and Lisa Scholey compiled the index.

An earlier version of parts of Chapter 4 appeared as ‘Foucault as Translator of Binswanger and von Weizsäcker’ in Theory, Culture and Society. The material is reused with Sage’s permission.

Abbreviations and Archival References

Key texts are referred to by abbreviations. For books translated as a single book the French page number is given first, followed by the English after a slash. With GK and D&E the German is first, followed by the French, and, for D&E, also the English.

English titles are used for work available in translation; French for untranslated works or unpublished manuscripts, though a translation of the title is provided the first time mentioned. I have frequently modified existing translations.

With the different editions of the History of Madness, I have usually made reference to the 1972 French edition and the 2005 translation (HM), unless there is a textual issue at stake.

Texts by Foucault and others

Immanuel Kant, Anthropologie in pragmatischer Hinsicht, Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 2000; Anthropologie du point de vue pragmatique and Introduction à l’Anthropologie, trans. Michel Foucault, Paris: Vrin, 2009; Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, trans. Robert B. Louden, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006. References are to Akademie Ausgabe pagination, found in the margins of all editions.
Daniel Defert, ‘Chronologie’, DE I, 13–64; trans. Timothy O’Leary in Christopher Falzon, Timothy O’Leary and Jana Sawicki (eds) A Companion to Foucault, Oxford: Blackwell, 2013, 11–83. Defert’s shorter revised chronology appears in Œuvres.
Philippe Artières, Jean-François Bert, Frédéric Gros and Judith Revel (eds), Michel Foucault: Cahier L’Herne, Paris: L’Herne, 2011.
Dits et écrits 1954–1988, eds Daniel Defert and François Ewald, Paris: Gallimard, 4 vols, 1994 – with text number to allow reference to the two editions of this text and bibliographies of English translations.1 Thus ‘DE#1 I, 65–119’ means text 1, in vol. I, 65–119.
Ludwig Binswanger, Traum und Existenz, Bern-Berlin: Gachnang and Springer, 1992; Le Rêve et l’existence, trans. Jacqueline Verdeaux, Introduction and Notes by Michel Foucault, Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1954; trans. Jacob Needleman in Dream and Existence, ed. Keith Hoeller, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993, 81–105.
‘Dream, Imagination and Existence’, trans. Forrest Williams, in Dream and Existence, ed. Keith Hoeller, Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993, 29–78.
Raymond Roussel, Paris: Gallimard, 1963; Death and the Labyrinth: The World of Raymond Roussel, trans. Charles Ruas, London: Continuum, 2004 [1986].
Roger-Pol Droit, Michel Foucault, Entretiens, Odile Jacob, Paris, 2004.
Essential Works, eds Paul Rabinow and James Faubion, trans. Robert Hurley and others, London: Penguin, 3 vols, 1997–2000.
Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique, Paris: Plon, 1961. Reprinted in 1964 by Plon; abridged in 1964 as FD2.
Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique, Paris: UGE, 1964 (abridged edition of FD1); Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard, London: Routledge, 1989 [1965].
Foucault Live: Interviews 1961–1984, ed. Sylvère Lotringer, New York: Semiotext[e], 1996.
Foucault à Münsterlingen: À l’origine de l’Histoire de la folie, eds Jean-François Bert and Elisabetta Basso, Paris: EHESS, 2015.
‘Foucault: Matérialité d’un travail. Entretien avec Daniel Defert par Alain Brossat, avec le concours de Philippe Chevallier’, in Orazio Irrera and Salvo Vaccaro (eds), La Pensée politique de Foucault, Paris: Kimé, 2017, 215–36; ‘Foucault: The Materiality of a Working Life – An Interview with Daniel Defert by Alain Brossat, assisted by Philippe Chevallier’, trans. Colin Gordon, Foucault Studies 21, 2016, 214–30.
Martin Heidegger, Gesamtausgabe, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann, 1975ff.
Viktor von Weizsäcker, Der Gestaltkreis: Theorie der Einheit von Wahrnehmen und Bewegen, Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1973 [1940]; Le cycle de la structure, trans. Michel Foucault and Daniel Rocher, Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1958.
Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique, Paris: Gallimard, 1972 (revised version of FD1 with new preface and two appendices; reissued in 1976 in Gallimard’s Tel series with same pagination but no appendices); History of Madness, trans. Jonathan Murphy and Jean Khalfa, London: Routledge, 2006.
Immanuel Kant, Anthropologie du point de vue pragmatique and Michel Foucault, Introduction à l’Anthropologie, Paris: Vrin, 2009; Introduction to Kant’s Anthropology, trans. Roberto Nigro and Kate Briggs, Semiotext(e), 2009.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke: Kritische Studienausgabe, eds Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Berlin: de Gruyter, 15 vols, 1980.
La Grande Étrangère: À propos de littérature, eds Philippe Artières, Jean-François Bert, Mathieu Potte-Bonneville and Judith Revel, Paris: EHESS, 2013; Language, Madness, Desire, trans. Robert Bonnano, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
Maladie mentale et personnalité, Paris: PUF, 1954.
Maladie mentale et psychologie, Paris: PUF, 1962 (extensively revised version of MMPe); Mental Illness and Psychology, trans. Alan Sheridan, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987 [1976].
Œuvres, Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, ed. Frédéric Gros, Paris: Gallimard, 2 vols., 2015.
L’Ordre du discours, Paris: Gallimard, 1970; ‘The Order of Discourse’, trans. Thomas Scott-Railton in Nancy Luxon (ed.) Archives of Infamy: Foucault on State Power in the Lives of Ordinary Citizens, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019, 141–73.
Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings 1977–84, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman, London: Routledge, 1990.
Le Beau Danger: Entretien avec Claude Bonnefoy, Paris: EHESS, 2011; Speech Begins after Death: In Conversation with Claude Bonnefoy, trans. Robert Bonnano, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.
Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography, eds Jeremy W. Crampton and Stuart Elden, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007.
Philippe Artières and Jean-François Bert, Un Succès philosophique: L’Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique de Michel Foucault, Caen: Presses universitaires de Caen, 2011.
Luther H. Martin, Huck Gutman and Patrick H. Hutton (eds), Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault, London: Tavistock, 1988.

Archival material

Michel Foucault Library of Presentation Copies, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
Fonds Michel Foucault, Archives et Manuscrits, Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Fonds Georges Canguilhem and Fonds Gérard Simon, Centre d’Archives en Philosophie, Histoire et Édition des Sciences, École Normale Supérieure
Fonds Georges Dumézil, Collège de France
Fonds Jean Hyppolite, Bibliothèque Lettres Ulm, École Normale Supérieure
Fonds Centre Michel Foucault, Fonds Louis Althusser, Fonds Jacques Derrida and Fonds La Table Ronde, L’Institut Mémoires de l’édition contemporaine, l’abbaye d’Ardenne, Caen
NC 1874
Alliance Française d’Upsal (Franska Alliansen, Uppsala), Uppsala University special collections, Carolina Rediviva Library StATG Archiv Roland Kuhn, Staatsarchiv des Kantons Thurgau, Frauenfeld
Archiv Institut Français de Hambourg, Staatsarchiv Hamburg
Archiv Ludwig Binswanger, Universitätsarchiv Tübingen


Unpaginated manuscripts have a page number in brackets, with ‘r’ recto and ‘v’ verso used when needed. Given the nature of the materials, these are correct to the time consulted – material can be moved, reversed or misplaced.

  1. 1. Richard A. Lynch, ‘Michel Foucault’s Shorter Works in English’, in Christopher Falzon, Timothy O’Leary and Jana Sawicki (eds), A Companion to Foucault, Oxford: Blackwell, 2013, 562–92.


In the late 1970s Foucault said to Jean-Pierre Barou: ‘when I die, I will leave no manuscripts’.1 Writing in 1993, his biographer David Macey judged that ‘he came close to fulfilling that promise’. Foucault’s close friend Hervé Guibert ‘was ordered to destroy the drafts of the final volumes of Histoire de la sexualité and all the preparatory materials’.2 This was due to Foucault’s wish that no one do to him what Max Brod had done to Franz Kafka.3 We now know that neither Foucault nor Macey was correct.

The publication of Foucault’s thirteen Collège de France courses has been supplemented by volumes of lectures given elsewhere. Other lectures, transcriptions of radio programmes, interviews and discussions have all appeared in the past several years. Most notably, the fourth volume of the History of Sexuality, Les Aveux de la chair [Confessions of the Flesh] appeared in early 2018.4 Attention is now turning to materials relating to courses given at universities in France, Brazil and Tunisia from the 1950s and 1960s. In addition, Foucault’s working notes and manuscripts are available at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France.5

This book is chronologically the first of a sequence of four books providing an account of Michel Foucault’s entire career. It is the third to be written, following Foucault’s Last Decade and Foucault: The Birth of Power.6 The missing years of 1962–9, from Birth of the Clinic to The Archaeology of Knowledge, will be the topic of the final volume, The Archaeology of Foucault. The order of the books’ writing has in large part been dictated by the availability of materials either by posthumous publication or in the archive.

The focus here is on the very earliest Foucault, from the traces of his intellectual formation until the publication and defence of his thesis Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique in 1961. That work, better known in French simply as Histoire de la folie and in English as the History of Madness, was a book that Foucault regularly described as his first, marginalizing his earlier works as peripheral and insignificant.

Foucault certainly did not publish much before 1961 – the short book Maladie mentale et personnalité, a couple of book chapters, a long introduction to a translation, a book-length translation, and a short book notice. All those publications are discussed in this book, of course, but its sources are deeper. The posthumous publications and the archives are invaluable to this approach. Like the previous books, this book makes use of all available material in tracing a story of intellectual history. Yet while this book is not itself a biography, compared to Foucault’s Last Decade and Foucault: The Birth of Power it does use more biographical sources. This is because there are relatively few other pieces of evidence for this early part of Foucault’s career. There are almost no interviews from this period; Foucault published little compared to later periods; and because he was not yet famous, there are fewer contemporary accounts of his work.

This is also, relatively speaking, a period which has been neglected by his commentators. Back in 1993, biographer James Miller complained that ‘the available evidence for Foucault’s early intellectual itinerary is sketchy, and open to different interpretations’.7 Today the sources are more extensive, though doubtless the possibility of multiple readings remains. There are good reasons for this beyond the limited publications. For one, Foucault did much to try to cover over the traces of this period. He tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to prevent the re-edition of his 1954 book; eventually consenting to revise it in 1962 as Maladie mentale et psychologie so that it removed some of the claims that no longer worked with his later writing. But that version too went out of print in the late 1960s. His two early translations, of the psychologist Ludwig Binswanger and the physician Viktor von Weizsäcker, went out of print, and when the Binswanger translation was republished it was without his long introduction and his role in the translation and its notes was unmentioned. His other publications from the 1950s were in such obscure outlets that even French readers had little access to them: it was only with the publication of Dits et écrits ten years after his death that they were collected and more widely available. One short review was missed by the editors of that volume. Of these early texts only the Binswanger introduction has been translated into English. Maladie mentale et psychologie has been translated, but that only gives a partial insight into the original book.

While much has been preserved in archives, much has also been lost. There are almost no extant materials relating to Foucault’s teaching in Uppsala, Warsaw and Hamburg. The only records of some of Foucault’s early 1950s lectures in France are in the form of student notes. Draft materials were often discarded or reused as scrap paper. There is also a long-standing rumour that Foucault and the sociologist Jean-Claude Passeron ghost-wrote articles for the French Communist Party (PCF) journal La Nouvelle Critique in the early 1950s, stemming from two conversations with the author and diarist Claude Mauriac.8 Neither Foucault’s first biographer Didier Eribon nor Macey was able to substantiate these rumours, and no new evidence seems to have come to light since.9 There is also the tantalizing mention of a text written by Foucault on René Descartes in 1952, which was commissioned by the PCF for the journal Clarté. It was apparently considered too difficult for students and not published.10 No archive seems to have a copy of this text, whose non-publication frustrated Foucault and contributed to his growing distance from the party (C 18/18).

Reading and Writing

While Foucault’s childhood and early schooling will not be discussed here, an anecdote told by his brother, Denys Foucault, is revealing.11 Foucault’s father Paul was a well-known surgeon and medical practitioner, whose Titres et travaux scientifiques was published by a local press the year Foucault was born.12 Foucault’s mother Anne was the daughter of a surgeon and anatomy professor at the University of Poitiers. In their childhood home in Vendeuvre-du-Poitou, there were two libraries – the father’s and the mother’s. His father’s library, in his study, was medical and off-limits; the library of his mother was literary and free to use. If the former would dominate Foucault’s interests through the 1950s and early 1960s, in his work on psychology, madness and medicine, with traces throughout his career; the literary would be a theme to which he often returned. It was in their mother’s library, Denys Foucault suggests, that Michel found Honoré de Balzac, Gustav Flaubert, and classical literature. He wrote on these topics, from an afterword to Flaubert’s Temptation of Saint Anthony to a lecture on that text and Bouvard and Pécuchet, and one on Balzac’s The Search for the Absolute, both given at SUNY Buffalo in 1970.13 His writings in the 1960s for Critique and Tel Quel, on writers including Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, André Breton, Pierre Klossowski, Alain Robbe-Grillet, the Marquis de Sade, and Jules Verne, and of course his book on Raymond Roussel in 1963, all show this enduring literary interest.14

In an interview, Foucault’s partner Daniel Defert says a great deal about his working practices. Foucault apparently worked to a very strict schedule, likening it to a factory job (FMT 215–16/214). He would leave his apartment to reach the library at 9am, often by bicycle, and continue working there until 5.30 or 6pm (FMT 216/215, 232/227). The evenings would be spent on ‘his social and political life’, followed by an hour of reading. This rhythm was not broken at weekends, nor on public holidays, and rarely on vacations. Defert’s recollection is largely of later periods in Foucault’s life – they met in 1960, and much of this relates to the period after Foucault’s return to France from Tunisia. But Foucault had got into these habits early. As a student at the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) he used its library on the rue d’Ulm, as well as the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève situated between the Sorbonne and the Panthéon in the Latin Quarter. From the early 1950s he became an habitué of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), then entirely situated on the rue Richelieu near the Louvre and the Palais Royal. This building, with rooms designed by Henri Labrouste, is where the bulk of Foucault’s papers are archived today. Even when based in Uppsala, Warsaw and Hamburg, he would regularly return there on visits to Paris. He resumed working there on a daily basis in the 1960s, apart from while in Tunisia, and this continued until 1979 when he moved to work at the Bibliothèque du Saulchoir.15 As Eribon suggests, the BNF was ‘no doubt the one place in which Foucault spent the most years of his life’.16

While the printed texts and some manuscripts, such as the Clairambault and Joly de Fleury collections, were located in the BNF, Foucault also used other libraries in Paris, including the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.17 He also worked with materials at the Archives Nationales, and the Bastille archives and the library of the duc de La Vallière at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal.18 As Chapter 6 will show, the Carolina Rediviva library at Uppsala University was also important, though not as much as is often said.

While the research was done in the libraries, the writing itself would generally be done at home. Foucault tended to write his books multiple times, in handwritten drafts, which were then developed over time. He would often discard pages and rewrite them anew, rather than cross out material and insert the changes (FMT 225/222, 234–5/229). As the archives show, many of the discarded pages were reused for other purposes, with reading notes or lectures on the reverse, or folded in half to group notes on a theme.19 Defert says that the table on which Foucault wrote History of Madness in Uppsala is still the one in his apartment (FMT 223/220). But while Foucault would write drafts of most of his future books in Paris, he had a habit of finishing them at the family home in Vendeuvre-du-Poitou, where he spent each summer (FMT 223/220).

Structure of this Study

Foucault usually referred to History of Madness as his first book. It is where he begins his candidacy presentation for his chair at the Collège de France, written in 1969, for example (DE#71 I, 842–3; EW I, 5–6). Foucault goes on to situate Birth of the Clinic, The Order of Things and The Archaeology of Knowledge within an overall narrative, and then outlines how his research would develop if he were to be elected to the position. That chronology is well established in the literature, though newly available and forthcoming materials add to it, and the literary is a crucial parallel theme. This period will be discussed in The Archaeology of Foucault. But how Foucault arrived at its putative beginning is a far from straightforward story. While many studies of Foucault begin with the first major book, History of Madness, in 1961, that is where this book ends.

This book therefore offers an account of the long process that led to that major work. Chapter 1 discusses Foucault’s university studies in Paris, in philosophy and psychology, and particularly analyses his diploma thesis on Hegel under the supervision of Jean Hyppolite. Chapter 2 looks at the beginning of Foucault’s own teaching career in Lille and Paris, using various archival sources, and discusses some unpublished manuscripts which may have developed from teaching materials. Chapter 3 discusses the texts he actually published in this period, which are a fraction of what he wrote. Newly available sources help to resolve long-standing issues about the dating of these texts. In Chapter 4, his work as a co-translator of Binswanger and von Weizsäcker is analysed, showing how Foucault and his colleagues rendered German into French.

All these early publications were completed before Foucault moved to Uppsala in 1955. That move is a break in his career, initiating a period of sustained research for the History of Madness alongside the engagement with new inspirations, notably the philosophers Friedrich Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger and the comparative mythologist and philologist Georges Dumézil. His engagement with Nietzsche and Heidegger is the subject of Chapter 5, along with the intellectual side of his relationship with the modernist composer Jean Barraqué. The research and writing he did in Uppsala and Warsaw on madness is the focus of Chapter 6, which also discusses his teaching and cultural activities. Chapter 7 examines the year he spent in Hamburg when he translated Immanuel Kant’s Anthropology. Chapter 8 looks at the defence, publication and abridgement of the History of Madness, and how Foucault was led by this work to revise his first book. The last pages explore how themes from this period point towards his concerns in the 1960s.

While this book, therefore, has its focus on how Foucault’s career led to the History of Madness, it shows a number of other paths explored but not ultimately taken. Among other themes, it shows Foucault’s detailed readings of Hegel, the phenomenologist Edmund Husserl and Kant, all of which led to substantial manuscripts, which he chose not to publish. Foucault’s engagement with the Daseinsanalysis movement, while long known, given the introduction to the Binswanger translation, goes much deeper and archival sources help to substantiate its importance. Foucault’s concern with the question of philosophical anthropology is also significant. The encounter with Nietzsche and Heidegger, while long known to be crucial, is here explored anew in the light of new or neglected sources. This book also analyses his profound yet critical interest in psychology – as a student, researcher and teacher. The importance of teachers, including Louis Althusser, Hyppolite, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean Wahl, in his intellectual formation is explored, as is the influence on his later development by people who never taught him, including Georges Canguilhem and Dumézil. The book utilizes archival sources extensively to fill in details of his teaching, writing and plans for abandoned theses. In the years covered here, Foucault was institutionally located in Paris, Lille, Uppsala, Warsaw, Hamburg and Clermont-Ferrand. All of these settings are significant in the story, which has a geography as much as a history. In tracking and mapping it I have found myself retracing some of Foucault’s own steps.


  1. 1. Jean-Pierre Barou, ‘Il aurait pu aussi bien m’arriver tout autre chose’, Libération, 26 June 1984, 4. Barou only specifies that the conversations were in late 1977 or early 1978.
  2. 2. David Macey, The Lives of Michel Foucault, London: Hutchinson, 1993, xix. Foucault appears as ‘Muzil’ in the autobiographical novel, Hervé Guibert, À l’ami qui ne m’a pas sauvé la vie, Paris: Gallimard, 1990; To the Friend who did not Save my Life, trans. Linda Coverdale, London: Quartet, 1991. On the manuscripts see, especially, chs. 10 and 13. See also Guibert, ‘Les Secrets d’un homme’, in Mauve le Vierge: Nouvelles, Paris: Gallimard, 1988, 103–11, 108.
  3. 3. Claude Mauriac, Les Temps accompli, Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1991, 43.
  4. 4. Michel Foucault, Les Aveux de la chair, ed. Frédéric Gros, Paris: Gallimard, 2018. See Stuart Elden, ‘Foucault’s Confessions of the Flesh’, Theory, Culture and Society, 35 (7–8), 2018, 293–311.
  5. 5. On working with this archive, see Samantha Saïdi, Jean-François Bert, Philippe Artières, ‘Archives d’un lecteur philosophe: Le traitement numérique des notes de lecture de Michel Foucault’, in Franz Fischer, Christiane Fritze, Georg Vogeler (eds), Kodikologie und Paläographie im digitalen Zeitalter 2, Norderstelt: BoD, 2010, 375–95; Philippe Artières, Jean-François Bert, Pascal Michon, Mathieu Potte-Bonneville and Judith Revel, ‘Dans l’atelier Foucault’, in Christian Jacob (ed.), Les Lieux de savoir 2: Les Mains de l’intellect, Paris: Albin Michel, 2011, 944–62; and Marie-Laure Massot, Arianna Sforzini, Vincent Ventresque, ‘Transcribing Foucault’s Handwriting with Transkribus’, Journal of Data Mining and Digital Humanities, 2019,
  6. 6. Stuart Elden, Foucault’s Last Decade, Cambridge: Polity, 2016; Foucault: The Birth of Power, Cambridge: Polity, 2017.
  7. 7. James Miller, The Passions of Michel Foucault, London: HarperCollins, 1993, 404 n. 82. For an earlier study of this period see José Luis Moreno Pestaña, En devenant Foucault: Sociogénèse d’un grande philosophe, trans. Philippe Hunt, Broissieux: Croquant, 2006. This was written without access to the posthumous publications or the archival material utilized in this book.
  8. 8. Claude Mauriac, Le Temps immobile 3: Et comme l’espérance est violente, Paris: Grasset, 1986 [1976], 341–2; Le Temps immobile 9: Mauriac et fils, Paris: Grasset, 1986, 291.
  9. 9. See Didier Eribon, Michel Foucault, Paris: Flammarion, 3rd edn, 2011, 95–8; Michel Foucault, trans. Betsy Wing, London: Faber, 1991, 54–6 (hereafter French and English are cited separated by /); Macey, The Lives of Michel Foucault, 41–2. Eribon’s third edition is updated; the English translation is of the first edition. I will occasionally make reference to the first and second French editions.
  10. 10. C 18/18; Eribon, Michel Foucault, 98/55–6.
  11. 11. Philippe Artières, ‘Un Frère: Entretien avec Denys Foucault’, CH 35; Artières et al., LMD 8/vii.
  12. 12. Paul Foucault, Titres et travaux scientifiques, Poitiers: Imprimerie du Poitou, 1926.
  13. 13. DE#20 I, 293–325; EW II 103–22; Folie, Langage, Littérature, ed. Henri-Paul Fruchaud, Daniele Lorenzini and Judith Revel, Paris: Vrin, 2019, 265–86, 287–304.
  14. 14. These texts mainly appear in DE I, with some translated in EW II. See also DL, Folie, Langage, Littérature, and LMD. They will be fully discussed in The Archaeology of Foucault.
  15. 15. See Elden, Foucault’s Last Decade, 114.
  16. 16. Eribon, Michel Foucault, 73/40; see Macey, The Lives of Michel Foucault, 49.
  17. 17. Artières et al. ‘Dans l’atelier Foucault’, 954.
  18. 18. The Bastille archives were used for a project envisioned from the late 1950s, but not finally published until 1982. Arlette Farge and Michel Foucault, Le Désordre des familles: Lettres de cachet des Archives de la Bastille au XVIIIe siècle, Paris: Julliard/Gallimard, 1982; Disorderly Families: Infamous Letters from the Bastille Archives, ed. Nancy Luxon, trans. Thomas Scott-Railton, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017. See Elden, Foucault’s Last Decade, 192–4; and Nancy Luxon (ed.), Archives of Infamy: Foucault on State Power in the Lives of Ordinary Citizens, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2019.
  19. 19. See Elden, Foucault’s Last Decade, 207–8.