Freethought Archives  > Baron d'Holbach >  Christianity Unveiled (1766)

Letters to Eugenia (1768)

Ecce Homo! (Critical History of Jesus Christ) (1769)

The System of Nature (1770)

Good Sense (1772)


D'Holbach Paul Henri Thiery, Baron d'Holbach was born in December 1723. A German by birth (Paul Heinrich Dietrich), he was raised in France and inherited his uncle's fortune and title there.

Although few were aware of the fact during his lifetime, Holbach was the first writer of openly atheistic works in modern history. He ranks as one of the most radical philosophers of the Enlightenment. His estate in Paris became a meeting-place for many prominent intellectual and political figures of the 18th century. Holbach was a close friend of Denis Diderot (1713-1784), and colloborated with him on Diderot's famous Encyclopédie (1751-72).

To avoid persecution Holbach was obliged to publish most of his anti-religious literature anonymously or under false names, usually those of known freethinkers who had been deceased for some years. His most famous book is The System of Nature (1770), nicknamed "The Atheist's Bible" and first published under the name of Mirabaud. In 1772 he published Good Sense, a summary of the principal ideas of The System of Nature. Holbach's books aroused much controversy and attracted rebuttals even from deistic freethinkers such as Voltaire and Frederick the Great.

Holbach died in Paris on 21 January 1789*, a few months prior to the French Revolution. His authorship of The System of Nature and other works did not become widely known until the 19th century.


Online Resources:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Edesheim Home Page (in German)

Baron D'Holbach: A Study of 18th Century Radicalism in France; 1914 dissertation by Max Pearson Cushing (1886-1951).

The Friends of Voltaire (1906), by "S.B. Tallentyre" (pseudonym of Evelyn Beatrice Hall, 1868-19??).


Offline Resources: [PAID LINKS]

Baron d'Holbach: A Prelude to the French Revolution (1935), by William H. Wickwar (1903-1999).

Ecce Homo! An Eighteenth Century Life of Jesus, edited by Andrew Hunwick (1995). To date the only critical edition of an Holbach work in English translation.

Good Sense; Prometheus Books reprint (2004) of Anna Knoop's 1878 translation.

The System of Nature; a modernised translation edited by Michael Bush (1999). Volume One only (unfortunately). Clinamen Press, 1999. Volume Two "delayed indefinitely" as of this writing.

Christianity Unveiled - A Controversy in Documents, a modern translation edited by David M. Holohan (2008).

Portable Theology (1767), translated into English for the first time by David M. Holohan (2010).

A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment, by Philipp Blom (2010).

* Sources differ as to Holbach's precise dates of birth and death. His exact birthdate appears uncertain, although it is recorded that he was baptised on 8th December 1723. Some authorities incorrectly give June 1789 as the month of his death.

Portrait of Holbach by Louis de Carmontelle, published in Paul Thiry von Holbach: Philosoph der Aufklärung, by Harthausen, Mercker & Schröter (Speyer 1989, Pfläzische Landesbibliotek).