Zeldin, a historian and sociologist whose books include The French and History of
French passions, noted that as soon he was sworn in Hollande paid homage to physicist and chemist Marie Curie and the father of France’s secular education system, Jules Ferry.
The new president has a sense of humour, he said, “which is a way of discovering the truth”.
Zeldin is best known for his An Intimate History of Humanity but has also written no less than five works, one of five volumes, on France, as well as commenting, often wittily, on the French on broadcast media, including RFI.
“The France is not a place, it is an idea,” he has said, referring to the universalism of French thought.
In 2007 he advised former President Nicolas Sarkozy on labour reform.
In 2001 Zeldin set up the Oxford Muse Foundation, whose aim is to introduce people from different cultures, and is an ardent defender of the art of conversation.
“For me one of the great problems of our epoch is that people are isolated, they don’t know their neighbours, don’t come out of their bubble,” he said Thursday.