David Léon Cahun
was a French traveler, Orientalist
Orientalism is a term used for the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists, as well as having other meanings...
Cahun's family, who came originally from Lorraine
The Duchy of Upper Lorraine was an historical duchy roughly corresponding with the present-day northeastern Lorraine region of France, including parts of modern Luxembourg and Germany. The main cities were Metz, Verdun, and the historic capital Nancy....
, destined him for a military career. However, owing to family affairs he was compelled to relinquish this, and he devoted himself to geographical and historical studies. In 1863 he began to publish a series of geographical articles and accounts of his travels in Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...
and neighboring countries in the Revue Française
. About the same time he published letters of travel, and a geographical review which was the first of its kind in the daily press. In 1864 Cahun set out to explore Egypt, Nubia
Nubia is a region along the Nile river, which is located in northern Sudan and southern Egypt.There were a number of small Nubian kingdoms throughout the Middle Ages, the last of which collapsed in 1504, when Nubia became divided between Egypt and the Sennar sultanate resulting in the Arabization...
, the western coast of the Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...
, and Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...
Returning to France in 1866, he became a political writer on the staff of La Liberté
. When that paper supported the Empire
The Second French Empire or French Empire was the Imperial Bonapartist regime of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870, between the Second Republic and the Third Republic, in France.-Rule of Napoleon III:...
, Cahun left it, joining the staff of La Réforme
(1869) and La Loi
. During the Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War or Franco-German War, often referred to in France as the 1870 War was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and...
he was a correspondent for several papers. On September 4, 1870, he entered the army as a volunteer, and was appointed sublieutenant of the 46th Foot the following November. When peace was established he resumed his Oriental studies, devoting himself chiefly to research concerning the Turks and the Tatars
Tatars are a Turkic speaking ethnic group , numbering roughly 7 million.The majority of Tatars live in the Russian Federation, with a population of around 5.5 million, about 2 million of which in the republic of Tatarstan.Significant minority populations are found in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan,...
In 1875 he was appointed to the Bibliothèque Mazarine
The Bibliothèque Mazarine is the oldest public library in France.- History :The Bibliothèque Mazarine was initially the personal library of cardinal Mazarin , who was a great bibliophile...
, where he was specially engaged in the compilation of an analytical catalogue from the year 1874. Meanwhile Cahun had begun to publish a series of historical novels dealing with ancient history, in the style of the journeys of Anacharsis
Anacharsis was a Scythian philosopher who travelled from his homeland on the northern shores of the Black Sea to Athens in the early 6th century BCE and made a great impression as a forthright, outspoken "barbarian", apparently a forerunner of the Cynics, though none of his works have...
in Greece. They are said by one critic to be written in temperate and pure French, combining interest with genuine archeological knowledge. It was Cahun's intention to present facts of ancient history that were not generally known, and thus make contributions to general history and geography. These novels include: Les Aventures du Capitaine Magon
, on Phenician explorations one thousand years before the common era (Paris, Hachette, 1875); La Bannière Bleue
, the adventures of a Muslim, a Christian, and a pagan at the time of the Crusades and the Mongolian conquest (ib. 1876); Les Pilotes d'Ango
, dealing with French history in the sixteenth century (ib. 1878); Les Mercenaires
, set during the Punic Wars
The Punic Wars were a series of three wars fought between Rome and Carthage from 264 B.C.E. to 146 B.C.E. At the time, they were probably the largest wars that had ever taken place...
(ib. 1881); Les Rois de Mer
, on the Norman invasions (Chasavay, 1887); Hassan le Janissaire
, on Turkish military life in the sixteenth century (crowned by the French Academy); La Tueuse
, scenes from the Mongol invasion of Hungary in the thirteenth century (1893). Cahun contributed many literary articles to the Revue Bleue
, Le Journal des Débats
, etc., and several critical, geographical, and ethnographical papers to the Bulletin de la Société d'Ethnographie
, Bulletin de la Société Académique Indo-Chinoise Bulletin de la Société Japonaise
, Bulletin de la Société Americaine
, Bulletin de l'Athénée Oriental
In 1878 Cahun set out on a fresh series of journeys accompanied by his wife. The two intrepid travelers visited central Syria, the mountains of Ansairi (1878), the Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are an island group situated between the Norwegian Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately halfway between Scotland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands are a self-governing territory within the Kingdom of Denmark, along with Denmark proper and Greenland...
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...
(1879), central Syria and Mesopotamia (1880). In 1879 the Tour du Monde
published an account of his travels through Syria and the mountains of Ansairi. He also issued a volume treating the same subject, entitled Excursions sur les Bords de l'Euphrate
(Paris, 1884). His scholarly study of local customs, Scènes de la Vie Juive en Alsace
, with preface by Zadoc Kahn
Zadoc Kahn was an Alsatian-French rabbi and chief rabbi of France.- Life :In 1856 he entered the rabbinical school of Metz, finishing his theological studies at the same institution after it had been established at Paris as the Séminaire Israélite; and on graduation he was appointed director of...
, chief rabbi of Paris, appeared about the same time (ib. 1885). In 1884 he published Le Congo, la Véridique Description du Royaume Africain, Traduite pour la Première Fois en Français sur l'Edition Latine Faite par les Frères de Bry en 1598, d'Après les Voyages Portugais et Notamment Celui d'Edouard Lopez en 1578
In 1890 Cahun established a course of lectures at the Sorbonne
The Sorbonne is an edifice of the Latin Quarter, in Paris, France, which has been the historical house of the former University of Paris...
, where he taught the history and the geography of Asia. An abstract of one section of this course was incorporated in the Histoire Générale
of Lavisse and Rambaud. Cahun's Introduction Générale à l'Histoire de l'Asie
(1896), based on material gathered during his travels, is a complete and exact history of that continent. He also undertook the restoration of some ancient casts that are of great geographical interest. Some years before his death Cahun ceased writing for the Parisian periodicals, but to the end he contributed to Le Phare de la Loire
. He left an unfinished history of the Arabs, and a historical novel dealing with the same topic. He was a member of several learned societies.
Cahun is a surname which may refer to:*Carl Pontus Gahn Swedish military officer*Claude Cahun , French artist, photographer and writer*David Léon Cahun , Jewish French traveler, Orientalist and writer...
came from a distinguished family, who traced back its ancestry to the times of Louis IX of France
Louis IX , commonly Saint Louis, was King of France from 1226 until his death. He was also styled Louis II, Count of Artois from 1226 to 1237. Born at Poissy, near Paris, he was an eighth-generation descendant of Hugh Capet, and thus a member of the House of Capet, and the son of Louis VIII and...
,. His nephew, the son of Mathilde Cahun, Marcel Schwob
Marcel Schwob was a Jewish French writer.-Biography:He was born in Chaville, Hauts-de-Seine on 23 August 1867...
(1867–1905), was a prolific French writer.
French photographer and writer Claude Cahun
Claude Cahun was a French artist, photographer and writer. Her work was both political and personal, and often played with the concepts of gender and sexuality.-Early life:...
(born Lucy Schwob, 1894–1954) was his great-niece.
Influences on Turkish nationalism
Cahun's novel La Bannière bleue
(1877) acted as a major source of inspiration for Turkish nationalist current in the Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...
and his history work Introduction à l'histoire de l'Asie: Turcs et Mongols des origines à 1405
(1896) had great impact on the nationalistic historiography of the Republican era. Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic had also been an avid reader of Cahun's Introduction à l'histoire de l'Asie