Adrien Boudou was born in Tournemire, in the department of the Cantal, in France, on May 9, 1876. Having completed his secondary studies at the minor seminary in Pleaux, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Rodez on October 1, 1896. In the autumn of 1898, he began a two year course in literature in Toulouse, followed by two years of philosophy: one in Vals near Puys, and the other in Gemert, in Holland. He received a B.A. in Literature in Angers in 1903 and became a teacher in the Bordeaux middle school for one year. Toward the end of 1904, he began theology studies in Enghien, in Belgium. After four years of theology, he studied Slavic languages and theology in Brussels for two more years. The third year of his novitiate, which completes the training cycle for Jesuits, led him to Heeren Eldern near Tongres, in Belgium, in 1911. Following that, he spent three more years in personal study, specializing in Biblical knowledge, first in the Bible Institute in Rome, then in Ore Place, Hastings, in England, and finally in Paris.
Before he was called up for military service as a male nurse in 1915, he taught Bible classes in the small seminary of Enghien for one year. Demobilized in 1918, he assisted with the literature classes in the middle school of Sarlat for two years. He then spent four years studying Russian history in Brussels and Rome. As the collaborator of, and successor to P. Pierling, who wrote a work on La Russie et le Saint Siège [Russia and the Holy See], Boudou added two volumes to that already voluminous work, dealing with the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Russia in the nineteenth century. In 1923-1924, he returned to his teaching position in Enghien for five years.
He sailed for Madagascar in 1928, going there to strengthen the team of professors in the new major seminary. He taught dogma, Holy Scripture, morals, philosophy, and church history. He lived successively in Ambohipo, Ambatoroka, Andohalo, Amparibe, and back again in Ambatoroka in his last year. Around 1931, in addition to his already heavy load, he was asked to be the historian of the Catholic Church [for Madagascar], which is how he came to study the history of Madagascar. “Knowing his remarkable erudition,” said the general governor Réallon, in the eulogy, “and the interest he had in historical studies, as well as in scientific study undertaken and pursued in Madagascar, the Malagasy Academy was quick to welcome him as a member.” He was elected associate member on July 20, 1932, and titular member on April 18, 1935.
On August 9, 1945, the Reverend father Coudannes, who was Superior of the Catholic mission at that time, wrote in his diary: “I am going to Ambatoroka. I need to convince Father Boudou, who has been languishing for quite a while, to go to the clinic in Ankadifotsy.” Around August 19, Boudou’s state took a turn for the worse. The doctor’s diagnosis was lung cancer. In spite of that, the great worker spoke of taking up his teaching again until the very end. He died on August 31.
Boudou made an important contribution to Malagasy historiography. There are his works, the longest of which is entitled Les Jésuites à Madagascar au XIXè siècle [The Jesuits in Madagascar in the 19th Century], and then his numerous articles, especially those that were published by the Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache [Bulletin of the Malagasy Academy].
Historians will undoubtedly contest and correct many things, as history is never written in a definitive manner, and all historians have their biases.
Nonetheless, it must be said that Boudou was well aware of this, as he clearly indicated at the beginning of his great work: “I have written this history with the greatest sympathy for those who actually lived and suffered at that time. As one who belongs to the religious family and to the mission of those that I have put on stage, I have no need to defend that or to quash those feelings.”
Although he was clear about where his sympathies were, he was nonetheless a very exigent historian. It is with the greatest patience that he assembled a vast amount of quality documentation, and it was with the greatest scrupulousness that he examined, scrutinized, critiqued, and cited his sources. There is nothing more moving than to go through the preparatory notes that he made, as they have been preserved. One can find there primary school notebooks and bundles of all sizes on which he has written, in a very fine and very legible handwriting, copies of original documents that he found during his travels, whether in Madagascar or in Europe. The exactness of his handwritten copies is as good as having a photocopy of them.
Boudou wasn’t exactly a novice when he came to the point of studying the history of Madagascar. When he landed in Antananarivo in 1928, he brought along an enormous amount of experience with languages, with archives, with exegesis, and with the various auxiliary sciences related to the study of history. In addition, he had a vast culture that was already related to the 19th century, which was so important for Madagascar.
Boudou was able to make full use of this singular range of qualities in his work on the history of Madagascar, which is why his work in that area should not be ignored by contemporary historians. The latter have actually placed him among those who initiated the scientific study of the history of the great island.
In addition to his intellectual qualities, Boudou had human qualities that were very much appreciated by those who knew him. This is what comes through the few following excerpts from the eulogy given by Réallon cited above:
We enjoyed seeing him at almost all of our meetings (of the Malagasy Academy). We all enjoyed hearing him and took the greatest interest in what he had to say on a great variety of subjects, especially historical ones, that he spoke to us about with so much knowledge, spirit, and even, on occasion, humor. In every sense of the term, he was a good man, and a man of goodness. I would infringe on his modesty and humility if I were to mention everything I know about his goodness, which was a Christian goodness, and about his inexhaustible charity. He loved the small and humble people, and in this land of Madagascar that had become his own, he comforted and brought relief to many of those people.
J. L. Peter s. j.
Bibliography of the works of A. Boudou:
1922-1925: Le Saint-Siège et la Russie: leurs relations diplomatiques au XIXe siècle [The Holy See and Russia: Their Diplomatic Relations in the 19th Century] vol. 1: 1814-1847. - Paris, Plon, 1922, XV + 580 p.; vol. 2: 1848-1883. - Paris, Spes, 1925, XIII + 566 p. (This work was crowned by the Académie Française).
1931: Le Prince Rakoto et ses premières relations avec les missionnaires catholiques, 1854-1857 [Prince Rakoto and the Beginnings of His Relationship with the Catholic Missionaries] Antananarivo, Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache (NS), vol. XIV (1931) p. 75 sv.
1933: Actes des Apôtres, traduits et commentés [Acts of the Apostles, Translation and Commentary], Paris: Beauchesne, 1933, LV + 592 p. (coll. : Verbum Salutis)
1933: La Côte-Ouest de Madagascar en 1852. Notes d’Edmond Samat [The West Coast of Madagascar in 1852. Notes by Edmond Samat], Antananarivo: Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache, tome XV (1933) p. 53 sv.
1933: Une lettre du Prince Rakoto (Radama II) 1859 [A Letter From Prince Rakoto (Radama II)] Ibid. : p. 79.
1933: *Journal de route d’une expédition de Rainimaharo en 1836 *[Travel Journal of an Expedition of Rainimaharo in 1936], Ibid. : p. 88 sv.
1934: Le Père Athanase de Villèle, 1877-1934 [Father Athanasius of Villèle], Antananarivo: Le messager du Cœur de Jésus, sept. 1934, pp. 176 to 180 and oct. 1934, pp. 198 à 200.
1935:* Le Père Jacques Berthieu 1838-1896* [Father Jacques Berthieu 1838-1896], Paris: Beauchesne, 1935, 454 p.
1935: Extraits de notes rédigées par le R. P. Lacomme à Tananarive pendant la guerre franco- hova de 1883-1884 [Excerpts From Notes Written by Rev. Father Lacomme During the Franco-Hova War of 1883-1884] Antananarivo: Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache, tome XVIII (1935), p. 57 sv.
1935: Grâce extraordinaire due à l’intercession de Victoire Rasoamanarivo [Extraordinary Grace Due to the Intercession of Victoire Rasoamanarivo], Antananarivo: Le Messager du Sacré Cœur, April 1935, pp. 195-197.
1937: Le centenaire de la naissance d’Alfred Grandidier, 1836-1921 [Centenary of the Birth of Alfred Grandidier, 1836-1921], Fianarantsoa: Lumière, dec. 7, 1937.
1937: Une lettre de M. de Lastelle et deux lettres de Lambert [A Letter By M. de Lastelle and Two Letters By Lambert], Antananarivo: Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache, vol. XX (1937), p. 27 sv.
1938: Le meurtre de Radama II. Documents et discussion [The Murder of Radama II. Documents and Discussion], Antananarivo: Mémoires de l’Académie Malgache, fasc. XXVI, (1938), 59 p.
1938: Jean Laborde a-t-il fait la traite des esclaves? [Did Jean Laborde Deal in the Slave Trade?], Antananarivo: Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache, vol. XXI (1938) p. 81. sv.
1938: Une correspondance entre Alfred Grandidier et le R.P. Camboué de 1889 à 1894. [Correspondance between Alfred Grandidier and the Rev. Father Camboué from 1889 to 1894], Antananarivo: Ibid. p. 89 sv.
1940: Petites notes d’histoire malgache [Little Notes on the History of Madagascar], Antananarivo: Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache, vol. XXIII (1940) p. 65 sv.
1941: Madagascar. La Mission de Tananarive [Madagascar. The Mission of Antananarivo], Antananarivo: imprimerie catholique, 285p.
1941: Galliéni le Pacificateur [Galliéni the Peacemaker], Antananarivo: Revue de Madagascar, no. 31, oct. 1941, pp. 23 to 55.
1942: Querelles de roitelets Antankarana et Sakalava 1865-1875 [Quarrels of the Petty Kings Antankarana and Sakalava 1865-1875], Antananarivo: Bulletin de l’Académie Malgache, vol. XXIV (1941), p. 171.
1942: Les jésuites à Madagascar au XlXe siècle [The Jesuits in Madagascar in the 19th Century], Paris: Beauchesne, 1942, 2 vol., XXVII + 543 and 569 p.
1943: Un marin de Bretagne à Madagascar. Hervé de Kersaint-Gilly, Seigneur de Kergadion, 1612-1667 [A Breton Mariner in Madagascar. Hervé de Kersaint-Gilly, Lord of Kergadion, 1612-1667], Antananarivo: Bull. de l’Académie Malgache, vol. XXV (1942-1943) p. 177 sv.
1943: Le complot de 1857 [The Plot of 1857], Antananarivo: Académie Malgache: collection de documents concernant Madagascar et les pays voisins [Malagasy Academy: collection of documents concerning Madagascar and the neighboring countries], vol. III, 87 p.
This article, reprinted here with permission, is taken from Hommes et Destins: Dictionnaire biographique d’Outre-Mer [Men and Destinies: Overseas Biographical Dictionary], vol. 3, published in 1977 by the Académie des Sciences d’Outre-Mer (15, rue la Pérouse, 75116 Paris, France). All rights reserved.