A native of Nogent-le-Rotrou, Le Bon qualified as a doctor of medicine at the University of Paris in 1866. He opted against the formal practice of medicine as a physician, instead beginning his writing career the same year dissertation sur la nature humaine his graduation. In the 1890s, he turned to psychology and sociology, in which fields he released his most successful works.
Le Bon developed the view that crowds are not the sum of their individual parts, proposing that within crowds there forms a new psychological entity, the characteristics of which are determined by the “racial unconscious” of the crowd. Ignored or maligned by sections of the French academic and scientific establishment during his life due to his politically conservative and reactionary views, Le Bon was critical of democracy and socialism. Charles-Marie Gustave Le Bon was born in Nogent-le-Rotrou, Centre-Val de Loire on 7 May 1841 to a family of Breton ancestry. When Le Bon was eight years old, his father obtained a new post in French government and the family, including Gustave’s younger brother Georges, left Nogent-le-Rotrou never to return. Nonetheless, the town was proud that Gustave Le Bon was born there and later named a street after him. In 1860, he began medicinal studies at the University of Paris. He completed his internship at Hôtel-Dieu de Paris, and received his doctorate in 1866.
From that time on, he referred to himself as “Doctor” though he never formally worked as a physician. Portrait of Gustave Le Bon, c. After his graduation, Le Bon remained in Paris, where he taught himself English and German by reading Shakespeare’s works in each language. Le Bon also witnessed the Paris Commune of 1871, which deeply affected his worldview. 1913: “Only people with lots of cannons have the right to be pacifists. Le Bon became interested in the emerging field of anthropology in the 1870s and travelled throughout Europe, Asia and North Africa.
In 1884, he was commissioned by the French government to travel around Asia and report on the civilisations there. The results of his journeys were a number of books, and a development in Le Bon’s thinking to also view culture to be influenced chiefly by hereditary factors such as the unique racial features of the people. Indian architecture, art and religion but argued that Indians were comparatively inferior to Europeans in regard to scientific advancements, and that this had facilitated British domination. On his travels, Le Bon travelled largely on horseback and noticed that techniques used by horse breeders and trainers varied dependent on the region. He returned to Paris and in 1892, while riding a high-spirited horse, he was bucked off and narrowly escaped death. He was unsure as to what caused him to be thrown off the horse, and decided to begin a study of what he had done wrong as a rider.
Le Bon’s behavioural study of horses also sparked a long-standing interest in psychology, and in 1894 he released Lois psychologiques de l’évolution des peuples. Both were best-sellers, with Psychologie des Foules being translated into nineteen languages within one year of its appearance. Le Bon followed these with two more books on psychology, Psychologie du Socialisme and Psychologie de l’Éducation, in 1896 and 1902 respectively. These works rankled the largely socialist academic establishment of France.