Coherence and Incoherence in Historical Studies: From the Annales School to the New Cultural History

Allan Megill
hen one finds scholars concerning themselves with disciplinary coherence and how it might be brought about, one needs to look with a jaundiced eye at the discourse of coherence that results. Such discourses are marked by a highlighting of what I call “coherence propositions.” Coherence propositions are easy to recognize, for they involve a common basic statement: “Now, we must all unite around X.” X, and the epistemological, even ontological, assumptions that support X, may change from generation to generation, even from decade to decade. But in “advanced” sectors of the historical discipline over the last eighty years or so there has been a great deal of continuity in the way coherence has arisen as an issue. The coherence propositions of “advanced” historians of eighty years ago are paralleled—although decidedly not duplicated—in what is currently the hegemonizing and imperializing fraction of the discipline, the so-called “new cultural history,” an orientation that arose in the 1980s as both an extension of and a rebellion against the dominance of social history.1 Academics make claims about coherence when they are interested in achieving professional advancement and institutional domination. In short, when we see coherence propositions being deployed we should look around in order to see who is making a grab for academic power, who is attempting to marginalize whom. And yet this is not the only thing we should do, for there are also genuine theoretical problems connected with coherence, problems having to do with disciplinary aims, methods, products, and audiences, as well as with the object of historical investigation, the historical past in its many manifestations. Thus, I contend, coherence propositions should be seen both as grabs for power and as attempts to address a genuine problem.


* I am grateful to Brad Whitener and Olivier Zunz for their careful readings of this paper.

New Literary History, 2004, 35: 207–231


new literary history

It is clear that in the historical discipline today there is a problem of coherence. This has not always been the case, for coherence was long regarded not as a problem but as an easily achievable aim. At the end of the nineteenth century and in the early years of the twentieth, intelligent men believed that the then relatively new academic discipline was poised to produce a unified account of the history of humanity, or at least of that part of humanity whose doings were worth recording. Reporting in 1896 to the Syndics of Cambridge University Press on the Cambridge Modern History that he had undertaken to edit, Lord Acton admitted that “ultimate history we cannot have in this generation,” thus implying that such a history would someday be had. And Acton’s successor as Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, J. B. Bury, explicitly claimed in his 1902 Inaugural Lecture that historians ought to be working toward a unified history of the world and that such a history would indeed come to be written.2 In short, Acton and Bury were committed to the notion of “grand narrative,” to evoke JeanFrançois Lyotard’s useful term.3 The importance of this disciplinary goal, a unified history of humankind, seems to have been assumed by many other historians who, while not actually articulating it as a goal, went about their own teaching and writing of history as if its validity were axiomatically given. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, matters stand very differently. Today it is obvious that historical study has not converged, but has instead moved off in a multitude of different directions. It is hardly surprising that this should be so. In Acton and Bury’s time the field of history was more constrained than it is now. Most historians focused on the nation-state and on how it had emerged as the central political form. Such concerns as the history of everyday life, of mentalities, and of sexuality did not exist within the discipline. Nor was there anything that can be considered a history of any non-Western peoples: those histories of non-Western regions that did exist were in fact histories of European conquest, occupation, and government. Kipling’s “lesser breeds without the law” were widely thought to be also without histories; to be sure, events had occurred in their pasts, but these were not seen as rising to the level of being historical. Hegel held that no people without written records and a state could have a history, and on this point historians agreed with him.4 Today, in contrast, historians write about a wider range of places and times and a wider swath of human concerns than did their counterparts of a century ago. Yet history can hardly be said to have conceptual devices or interpretive perspectives that would let the vast current outpouring of historical scholarship come together into a single coherent picture. Around 1900, the story that was told or projected was of the movement of humankind

But in fact it has been influential. for most people read works of history with the expectation of learning about a specific topic. do not think about it very much and are bothered by it only when they are assigned the task of teaching courses with the impossibly demanding title. such as the Third Reich or the Founding Fathers or the Civil War. the Annales impulse remains directly and indirectly influential. although aware of history’s pullulating multiplicity. however. and not for any wider reason. or at least antidotes. and although it is often unremarked it persists as an issue in the competitions for hegemony among different “paradigms” in the historical discipline today. If they were. the new cultural history has strong roots within the Annales tradition. “World History. are not aware of the failure of the discipline’s products to cohere into a single story. they would hardly care about it. There is no such common narrative now: neither the liberal story nor its Marxian variant survives except marginally. is with that interesting minority of historians who have offered cures. One should also note that the unified impulse that originally animated the Annales became fragmented as its generations succeeded each other. *** The central question facing all proponents of historical coherence is this: What form can coherence take when. manifestly. in historical writing. the first two generations of Annalistes launched the twentieth century’s most sustained and ambitious attempt to arrive at a coherence. the term school is misleading: the Annales was more an orientation than a school. In particular. This would remain true even if the Annales had not been influential at all. for the multiplicity. Although the Annales school is a thing of the past.coherence and incoherence 209 toward an unproblematically defined liberal freedom. most historians. and when in 1975 the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales came into being within its general territory the EHESS could hardly be identified with the Annales. But it remains the most important reference we have for the problem of coherence. of sorts.” Our concern here. the Annales school (so named after its journal). the researches and writings of historians go off in a multiplicity of different directions? This question shadowed the most influential single orientation in historical research and writing in the twentieth century.5 To be sure. Most casual readers of history. and even where such connections do not exist there remain significant . to be sure. the very term “Annales school” has an antiquated ring to it: the Annales school has been superseded. For one thing. in the form of proposals for one or another historiographical united front. Today. For their part. and no persuasive replacement has come onto the scene.

and then as the writer from 1905 onward of a doctoral dissertation. and his importance was magnified by the disruption that World War II brought to Bloch’s life. Henri Berr. at historical synthesis. Febvre did not limit himself to the stirring political events of the late sixteenth century (when Philip II of Spain. when two historians at the University of Strasbourg. Febvre’s next book. An immensely important model for Febvre’s efforts was provided by an older normalien and indefatigable academic entrepreneur. He included statistical tables representing the income of noble estates. but also dealt with historical geography and with social and economic history. . of substance and situation. Religious. [He] could not accept barriers between disciplines. Febvre had been exposed to the controversies of the time concerning the relations between social science and history. with history merely a supplier of raw materials. Philip II and the Franche-Comté: A Study of Political. who was busily inventing sociology in this period. failing to offer a broad picture of human society.7 Fundamental to the Annales project was Febvre’s insistence on “the necessity of synthesizing all knowledge in a historical framework. In writing his dissertation. Similarly. between the original Annales school program and the programmatic side of cultural history today. who ruled the Franche-Comté. in the form of a single human science. was contending with the revolt of the Netherlands against Spanish rule). Febvre was too deeply interested in the human past to be attracted by such subjections of history to theory. there were economists who argued that economic theory needs to trump economic history.6 Febvre was the great instigator of the Annales project. was Geography and the Evolution of Mankind .” He wanted to “abolish the barriers between the human sciences and the social sciences.”8 The aim of discovering and displaying the unity of knowledge. and Social History (defended 1911. Revue de synthèse historique. coherence was not something that would arise from a set of theoretical concepts. with its analysis and conceptbuilding. that aimed. ought to be the master discipline. an histoire historisante (his term) that he saw as focused narrowly on political events. as its title suggests. For Febvre. who in 1900 had founded a journal. . animated both the founding of the journal and Febvre’s intellectual and academic activities generally. Lucien Febvre (1878–1956) and Marc Bloch (1886– 1944). he believed in the unity of knowledge. . commissioned by Berr.210 new literary history affinities. founded the Annales d’histoire économique et sociale. and who proposed that sociology. One position in the controversy was vividly represented by Émile Durkheim.9 Berr was a critic of the dominant mode of history-writing at the time. published 1912). and also examined the views and lifestyles of the nobles and burghers. Annales history goes back to 1929. As a student at the École Normale Supérieure from 1899 to 1902.

Entire categories of human life are left out. and must be left out. Fernand Braudel (1902–85). Annales historians hoped to produce comprehensive accounts of the particular historical realities that they chose to investigate. Two points need to be made about Braudel’s way of conceptualizing his project. In short. The first is that the total history in question is not total. at the conjunctural level.” which became a shibboleth of the Annalistes. Febvre opposed both an excessive determinism and an excessive commitment to the view that human beings (or rather. has usually been applied. and cannot be so. it moves quickly but superficially. 1966). We can see this aspiration already in place in Philip II and the Franche-Comté. the monumental The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (1949. the medium term. it moves in cycles that may last for many years (on the model of certain kinds of economic cycles). it was intended to encourage historians to take geographical factors into account in their study of the past. This book was intended. the politically enfranchised subset of human beings) are sufficiently free that they can be understood in isolation from their environments. Braudel attempts to give a total picture of the Mediterranean world in the time of Philip II. by the man who became the chef of the second generation of the Annales school.” “conjuncture.coherence and incoherence 211 (1922). He divides that world into three levels: “structure. Where is the coherence in all this? Let us look at the matter broadly. In the first two generations of the Annales school the search for coherence took place at two distinct levels.) However. geographical level. where there is a clear intent to offer something like a comprehensive picture of the historical reality of the Franche-Comté in the second half of the sixteenth century. On the other side. as an attack on the geographical determinism of such scholars as the German geographer Friedrich Ratzel.” and “event. rev. At the basic. The second point is that the attempt to offer a total representation of a past historical reality is virtually guaranteed to highlight historical incoherence—notwithstanding the fact that Braudel himself insisted on “the . one can think of Braudel’s book as describing the workings of three separate. few have read through from beginning to end.10 In this book.. while at the level of events (embracing most politics and warfare). and the short term. although overlapping. ed. which. lest “total history” become even more unreadable than it is. temporalities— the long term [la longue durée]. on the one side. time moves hardly at all. truth be said. the representational aspect of the Annalistes’ search for coherence is most famously embodied in what came to be seen as the exemplary work of Annales historiography. (That it was Febvre’s native region no doubt sustained him in this aspiration. It is to this aspiration toward coherence that the term “total history. The more obvious one was the level of historical representations.” Alternatively.

Rudolf Carnap. he conceptualized coherence as something to be brought into being by the creation not just of a unified history but of a unified social science—a social science unified. . developed the even more ambitious idea of laying out the foundations of a unified science . Febvre understood the difficulty of attaining coherence at the level of representation. however. for example. For Febvre turned himself into a fervent advocate of the unity of science. . metaphysics. he asserted.12 It seems clear that early in the game.212 new literary history unity and coherence of the Mediterranean region. Herbert Feigl. Hans Reichenbach. Febvre himself noted. logic.”11 It is notorious. It is a basic point. or the French nation) and with “universals” (such as the medieval rural community. For one of the central features of historical investigation is precisely the unresolvability of its dialectic—an unresolvability that is perhaps most clearly visible in the obligation that lies upon historians to deal with human beings as both determined and free. and others. rather than a discipline exterior to history. its contributors would be “scholars who think of their sciences in the framework of Science. government-sponsored Encyclopédie française. but is also evident in their obligation to deal both with particulars (such as Montaillou in the thirteenth century. the work was to be an encyclopedia of science in the singular. More accurately.” On the contrary. law.” as he called it.15 Also in the 1930s. including Otto Neurath. It would be focused on “the unity of the human spirit.”13 So it is not surprising that Febvre conceptualized coherence as something to be found primarily in the practice of historical investigation itself. he wrote to a geographer who had wondered where geography was to be found in his plan for the encyclopedia that “I am not producing an Encyclopedia of the Sciences. an international group of logical empiricist philosophers. ethics. only made obvious when one tries to write an all-embracing history. aesthetics . by history. within which the particular disciplines (geography.”14 Febvre was far from being the only person in his time and generation to hew to the notion of the unity of science—“l’Unité vivante de la Science. that one of the tasks of history is “to negotiate the relation of the Institutional to the Contingent”—a task that he saw as comparable to the task in various other sciences of negotiating “the relation of the Logical and the Empirical [le Réel]. the unity of unease in the face of the unknown”. as editor-in-chief of a new. In the early 1930s. his three temporal levels (embodied in three separate divisions of the book) are only tenuously interconnected.) would be dissolved. well before Braudel. or nationhood). that Braudel’s “total” picture of the Mediterranean world simply does not hang together: most obviously. with utter explicitness.

Febvre’s repeated insistence on the unity of history was in fact accompanied by a clear and precise recognition that the studies that were being collected in Annales hardly cohered at . it is required to focus on the articulating of laws and theories.16 The difference between Febvre’s project and the unifying project of the logical empiricists was that. Febvre was against the attempt of the Durkheimian sociologists.” as he declared in his 1933 inaugural lecture at the Collège de France. rather. as well as researchers dealing with “so-called civilized societies” from those dealing with so-called “primitive” or “exotic” societies. where they regretted the barriers that separated ancient. it is one thing to declare that there is a coherence that exists at a basic ontological level and quite another thing to engineer the production of multiple historical studies.coherence and incoherence 213 (including social science) in another encyclopedia. in his view. the logical empiricists excluded it entirely. Taking a contrary view. to purchase coherence at the price of leaving out what was living and vital in humanity. medieval. among others.”18 Time and again Febvre insisted that this study was a unified enterprise. “there is history tout court.17 In a 1941 talk at the École Normale Supérieure he made the same point. in contrast. they held that science needs to be “nomothetic”—that is. that actually cohere. underpinned the unity of the historical study of Man: it was the unity of Man himself. and so on. is “idiographic. “There is no economic and social history”. science du passé humain. in its Unity. Febvre looked forward to the articulating of an account of the human world that would be coherent and that would also take full account of historical complexity and difference. to be published as a series of monographs. dealing with a wide variety of subjects. in the framework of the societies. telling his listeners that history is the study of “the diverse activities and the diverse creations of the men of other times. grasped in their temporal location [à leur date].19 Febvre and Bloch made the same point in 1929 in the foreword to the first volume of Annales. In the logical empiricist framework. extremely varied and yet capable of being compared with one another (such is the postulate of sociology).” concerned with describing particular realities. History. the never finished (indeed. and modern historians from each other.20 Febvre was also very clear about what. On more than one occasion Febvre asserted that history was “the science of man”: “Histoire science de l’Homme. barely started) International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. whereas Febvre’s project put history at the center of the unified social science. Of course.” he said in his ENS talk. history can serve as a source of raw materials for theoryconstruction but is not itself scientific. They did so because. like Durkheim and many others earlier. with which they have filled the surface of the earth and the succession of ages.

entitled “Vers une autre histoire. What was to be done. Revue de métaphysique et de morale. published scholarship. and this as well. and was reprinted in 1953 as the concluding essay of Combats pour l’histoire. Febvre—and Bloch. was the hoped-for coherence to be found? We do not need to guess at Febvre’s views on the matter. One would expect Febvre to be happy. one could not passively wait for the coherence to emerge: one had to strive for it. ‘read this. Where. ‘How novel. these large projects tended to produce little in the way of finished. as long as he was available—presided over a number of collective research projects. then. and in the political or cultural . for he articulated those views in a number of essays from the early 1930s onward. and this was because “these four or five works deal with subjects that are far removed from one another in time and in space.214 new literary history all. and also as a means of increasing the influence in the academic world of Annales history. As part of this effort. at least. . in the conduct of one’s affairs. The most important thing to note in the review is Febvre’s evoking of the incoherence of historiographical production in a France where no unifying vision for historical research yet existed. my fellow. as products. The Historian’s Craft. well-verified fact that would eventually be used to construct the great edifice of historical knowledge.21 In Febvre’s view. in which teams of researchers (often amateurs living in the provinces) investigated aspects of French history and society (such as French rural housing).22 And yet. They arouse curiosity. He viewed with contempt the Buryesque notion that armies of laboring graduate students would produce the bricks of objective. let alone coherent scholarship. on subjects which would seem quite obviously to be of great importance in one’s life.’ That is all it amounts to” (434/38–39). Febvre suggests that in France in any given year “four or five original works of history” are published that “are relatively new in their conception” and that have some intellectual merit. symptomatically. then? Febvre called for “a new kind of history” that would be the product of coordinated historical research: “[S]uppose that every year or two the succeeding chapters of a dozen or so well-organized investigations. Perhaps the most interesting essay. They make us say of their authors: ‘How ingenious they are’ and of their conclusions. it was also a characterization and defense of the project in which Febvre and Bloch had been mutually engaged. about these four or five works.23 A review of a posthumously published (and unfinished) book by Bloch. .’ Thus they occupy the curiosity of certain intelligent readers who have the fairly rare advantage of being well advised by some new-thinking historian friend. It was as if the process of collaboration was a poor substitute for a substantive coherence that could not arrive. But he was not. .” appeared in 1949 in a well-known intellectual journal.

” in historical research projects carried out “in one and the same spirit” (434. a historiographical modernist if there ever was one. “produce an image of their present life. Such societies. The aim was not to achieve a single coherent picture of the human past. Instead. Febvre judged that history is a liberation from the past: “[H]istory is a way of organizing the past so that it does not weigh too heavily on the shoulders of men” (437/41). In our own time there has been a growing tendency to equate history with memory. We have to live. . could be studied in one and the same spirit either in civilizations far removed from each other in time or in civilizations separated in space by great distances” (434/39. launched simultaneously so that any important phenomenon . of its collective aims and of the virtues required to achieve those aims. accumulated weight of all that we inherit” (436/40). he relocated coherence. He had a low opinion of what he saw as the practices of “traditional” societies in this regard. and scope of history” (435/39).coherence and incoherence 215 decisions one has to take—coordinated investigations. he held. .” in “an organized and concerted group inquiry. Febvre. situating it in the collective coordination of historical research referred to above—in “coordinated investigations. But it seems clear that coherence at the level of the research itself. comprehensive thoughts. on the contrary. 436/39. . also served to reassure Febvre of the scientific character of the work being done. cruel. brought about by a deliberate effort at coordination.” and then. they “project” a “sort of prefiguration of the same reality. But this almost Nietzschean pragmatism does not mean that Febvre abandoned the notion of historiographical coherence. in looking to the past. or even of some part of that past. for Febvre suggested that only if historical research were coordinated in this way would the “average man” come to understand “the role. There is a coherence in such mythic projections. he envisaged a “problem-oriented” history (histoireproblème). There was an evident propagandistic intent in this proposal. in which the historian in his present approaches the past with the aim of solving problems relevant to that present (as in the passage just quoted). held that “it is essential for human groups and societies to forget if they wish to survive. As Febvre makes clear in “A New Kind of History” (as well as in many other of his writings). but Febvre rejected coherence of this sort. Febvre’s conception of history implies rather a breaking up of the past. wished to get away from the burdening and distorting weight of the past. 40). importance. for how could a coherent representation of the past arise from sets of different questions posed of the past by successive presents? Indeed. simplified but magnified to a certain extent and adorned with the majesty and incomparable authority of a tradition” (436/40). Febvre. We cannot allow ourselves to be crushed under the tremendous. my emphasis).

the full title of which was now Annales: Economies. Febvre was then succeeded by Braudel. and he served as president of the Sixth Section from 1948 to 1956. far more than Febvre. Braudel argued. the focus of Braudel’s discourse of coherence came to be not representational coherence.216 new literary history Although it would be tiresome to discuss the matter at length. As a result. Braudel proved to be an even better organizer and operator than Febvre had been. in a 1958 article. McNeill has suggested that Braudel’s technique in the first. Following the Liberation. through his overseeing of research institutes within which different disciplines with many different research interests competed for resources. Of course. he was well aware that coherence of intellectual products is harder to attain than is coherence of principles for the conduct of the intellectual work that produces those products. Sociétés. in the 1966 edition. Braudel continued to write big history that aimed to tie together immense and far-flung aspects of historical reality. But. and he laid the groundwork for the founding of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. and through his editing of a journal whose volumes looked like potpourris. but the project of articulating a unified human science. but it would increasingly be the coherence of a general social science whose unity.” 24 After The Mediterranean. who used innumerable separate dots of paint to depict everyday scenes. Thus. Coherence remained a stated goal. He was deeply involved in the founding of a research library and institute. Moreover. relying on the eye of the beholder to blend them together into a comprehensible whole. came to make essentially the same argument about coherence. “History and . needed to be brought into being. of which he became director. In The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World. among other things. the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme. Braudel. through his own work. Braudel reaped the institutional payoff of Febvre’s tireless effort of propaganda and log-rolling. to fit his “magnificent. . he encouraged the conduct and publication of a wide range of scholarship on a wide range of topics. Febvre had been involved in the founding of the Sixth Section (Social and Economic Sciences) of the École Pratique des Hautes Études. Civilisations. As a highly active editor of the journal. . it is noteworthy that Febvre’s successor. Braudel. multicolored portrait” into “a scientific straitjacket. William H.” Braudel then spent years trying to improve the work. McNeill suggests that Braudel was thus driven. trying to make it more coherent. who was president from 1956 to 1972. 1949 edition “resembled that of the pointilliste painters . as with Febvre. had at his disposal an institutional framework within which the coordinated pursuit of the social sciences could (at least in principle) take place. This involved. Braudel strove for representational coherence but never attained it.

singular social science. philosophy.” and went on to claim that “there can exist no social science. which was then fashionable in some quarters. but for something else—“unitary interscience. was to be the coherence of what the great. it seems.” Braudel suggested that these two disciplines constitute “a single adventure of the mind. let us mix together all the sciences. . the science in question would also include—how is never specified—the traditional humanities disciplines as well. the themes that would permit us to achieve a preliminary convergence. .”28 But in the vision of the later Braudel. *** We are now two decades beyond the death of Braudel. longue durée.” also first published in 1958. through their investigations. that “one sees precious few signs today of Braudel’s passion to create a truly unified. unified investigation of Man—persisted until the end of his life. he had no illusions about the difficulties of such a convergence.”29 . Braudel suggested that social scientists should stop arguing about what the boundaries of their different disciplines are. But I would be curious to know what other specialists propose. the elements (if elements there are) that could orient our collective research. or hermeneutic epistemologies” that emphasize “variety. . “History and the Social Sciences: La longue durée. or even of a unified history alone. Instead. including the traditional ones. No doubt this is why.”27 The coherence of history. they should “try to spell out. narrowing in on locality. . . he referred only to a “preliminary” convergence. And it is perhaps significant that in a late interview he did not call for interdisciplinarity. singular social science. etc. Braudellian loyalist. A third generation of Annales-influenced historians—that of Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and his coevals—has given way to a fourth and later generations.”25 In another article.coherence and incoherence 217 Sociology. philology. What is evident at this long interval is the persistent failure of a unified social science. however. speaking in 1999.” He had to concede. called “a truly unified. I believe these elements are: mathematization. Wallerstein characterized Braudel’s project as an attempt to bridge the “great epistemological debate” between the nomothetic disciplines and “more humanistic. or about what social science itself is. not similarities. without reconciliation. Myself. of the kind that interests me. To be sure. perhaps last. in human social behavior. to appear. . in 1958. Immanuel Wallerstein. but all these quarrels seem quite dated.”26 Braudel’s preoccupation with “convergence”—presumably involving commitment to a single. In his 1999 talk. Setting the social sciences one against the other is easy enough to do.

as sciences dealing with “everything that has to do with humankind”. only history is concerned centrally with time.” with the discipline breaking up into a multitude of practices that are irreducible to each other. thus history and sociology are privileged over all other disciplines. And yet Braudel continued not only to affirm “the unity of history. has noted. and sociology. that the barriers between the social and the human sciences should be overcome. therefore. What defined histoire historisante in Berr’s eyes was its focus on particular historical realities and its assumption that once the historian had described and analyzed such a reality he had completed his work. Noiriel identifies a theoretical justification offered by Braudel for granting history this central—and unifying—position. As Noiriel notes. Among these enemies were the competing social sciences of economics. “traditional” historians committed to the “histoire historisante” against which Henri Berr polemicized as early as 1911. of the two disciplines.” and so on. Indeed. Braudel’s statements of commitment to the unity of the human sciences need to be juxtaposed to his insistence. central position within the human sciences as a whole.218 new literary history This judgment is undoubtedly correct.32 In fact. only two disciplines. the claims quoted in the previous paragraph need to be situated within the context of Braudel’s “explicit ambition” to raise history to the role of central and unifying discipline among the human sciences. history and historians are destined to unite the human sciences and give them a “common language. that it should be without “compartments” (cloisonnements). When Febvre spoke of collective research that would be carried out under the regime of an “histoire dirigée” there is no doubt that this would indeed be a “directed” history and that Febvre and his allies should be the ones directing it.”30 The logic of Braudel’s claims leaves much to be desired. however. elsewhere. The object of the human sciences is “human beings in time”. more accurately. have “a ‘generalist’ vocation”.” but also to claim that history occupies a privileged. as one acute and skeptical commentator. history and sociology. was the mainstream of French historians. But in fact. Gérard Noiriel. the Annales school of the first two generations was always in a state of war against enemies.31 The same considerations come into play in relation to Braudel. that there is a “living Unity of Science. geography. that there has been a “fragmentation of history. The primary enemy. But all these claims were put forward in the context of a combat pour l’histoire that was. Febvre repeatedly claimed that history should escape the spirit of specialization. Febvre held on the contrary . Building on Berr. Consider Febvre for a moment. neither Braudel’s claims nor Febvre’s analogous claims earlier should be regarded as primarily guided by logic. a combat for a particular kind of history— Febvre’s kind.

which ranged from biology. the Annales orientation could hardly be called marginal. were the two chief weapons in the propaganda war of the Annalistes against their opponents. even some historians who regretted such an approach acknowledged its dominance (212). even for theory. In 1970.” which she identifies as the 1970s (213). geography. it is no longer a matter of Annales school history versus its various enemies. For example. along with the insistence on an histoire-problème by which problems connected to the present would be brought bear on the investigation of the past. moreover. the EHESS. with Febvre’s appointment to the Collège de France in 1933 and Bloch’s to the Sorbonne in 1936. she suggests. “The Annales: Continuities and Discontinuities. geographers.”35 Since Hunt’s account is remarkably focused and direct. and climate at the bottom to “political and cultural expressions of specific groups or individuals” at the top. in a 1986 article on “the rise and fall of the Annales paradigm. to understand the need for “hypotheses. History needs.” which appeared in the first volume of Wallerstein’s . It needs to be able to engage in comparison. which historiens historisants rejected as irrelevant. First of all. was “widely accepted within the French historical profession in the 1960s and early 1970s”. It needs to be attentive to the unmoving or slow-moving substratum of the “history of events” studied by. supposedly dominant historical mainstream. indeed. I can hardly do better than reproduce certain of her central points. then in 1975 the Sixth Section became an independent institution.”33 Although. in a 1978 article. noted earlier. the Sixth Section had moved into a brand-new modernist high-rise on the boulevard Raspail. bringing the particulars of one place and time to bear in the attempt to illuminate those of another place and time. As Hunt observes. Today. For it seemed that there was indeed a “paradigm” involved in Annales history. with its “three-level” model of history.coherence and incoherence 219 that the history needs to be open to general concerns. under Braudel’s leadership. until as late as the end of the 1960s Febvre and his successors continued to polemicize against a benighted. this model. as well as the condition of “Man” in general. there is no longer such a thing as “the Annales school. of course. for example. for research programs. The paradigm was exemplified in Braudel’s Mediterranean. But the Annales was unified by more than a building. She asserts that “the Annales paradigm began to disintegrate at the very moment of its triumph. Hunt also notes that as early as the late 1970s various participants within the Annales were beginning to see signs of its disintegration.34 The program of an histoire totale that would somehow make history a coherent enterprise.” An important overview was provided by the influential American historian Lynn Hunt.

the prominent third-generation Annaliste François Furet. he discerned a coherent program. a young Annaliste of the fourth generation. who in the 1990s would become president of the EHESS. has ceased to be the basic referent and has become the transitory object. the central figure of the preceding mode of analysis. that history should add to its subjects and methods by borrowing from neighboring disciplines and even by the temporary abolition of divisions between disciplines. they worked “in directions that were too diverse for them to be easily assembled under a single intellectual banner” (390). to historiographical—coherence.220 new literary history Braudellian journal Review. and second. that it should nevertheless remain an allembracing and ecumenical discipline. The field of research in the social sciences is splintering. Still. suggested in a 1983 article that one had now to think of going “Beyond the Annales. Perhaps the only common feature among Furet’s generation of historians was that they saw in the “almost boundless range of topics and methods” that the Annales allowed “a heaven-sent oasis on the path away from Stalino-Marxist historicism” (391). Man.”36 Revel also contended that the body of common socialscientific knowledge “has been rapidly disintegrating since the beginning of the 1960’s. Revel suggested that the Annales of circa 1978 emphasized “experimentation and interrogation. rather. meeting the conditions required for the fullest understanding of social phenomena” (392). In retrospect. Jacques Revel. in the conception of history that had animated his generation. He also noted an increase in the space the Annales gave to “the analysis of cultural systems. and he suggested that this amounted less to the exploration of “a sort of third level of knowledge” than to “the raising of a new set of questions” (18). For his part. and a dated one.38 To be sure. one has to see Furet’s 1983 article as representing something like the last gasp of the classic Annales approach to historical—or rather. observed that “the identification of stable systems is at the heart” of the Annales undertaking and that it lacks any concern “with a theory of social change or with the shift from one historical model [to] its successor. For already a shift was taking place that would sharply transform the terms of discussion—a shift that Lynn Hunt identified in 1986 as a shift from social history to cultural history.” after a period dominated by economic and social history.” rather than a unified approach. of a particular pattern of scientific discourse” (17). Revel’s reference to the analysis of culture has . who was president of the EHESS from 1977 to 1985. embodied in two commitments: “first.”37 He denied that the Annales historians shared a “common and unified concept of the discipline”. Hunt was only drawing the attention of an English-speaking audience to a shift of interest already commented on by Revel and by Furet.

Furet in 1983 had also remarked on a growing concern with culture among Annalistes. recall. coherence is now seen as a matter of willed commitment to one or another “paradigm” of historical research. and thus gave rise to the illusion that it was able to grasp both the material infrastructure and the ideational superstructure of society. authoritative narrative of human history. Finally.41 Among the Annalistes from Febvre to Furet the commitment was not to a distinctive method for history but rather to an investigative process that was seen as broadly social scientific: among these historians there was always a commitment to a science (or “interscience”) that would yield authoritative. the commitment was to a method that was regarded as distinctively historiographical. Second. the basis for coherence was held to reside in a shared method. or an ephemeral fashion.” and their preference for studying “objective behavior. And what characterizes the paradigm notion is that it embraces within itself a distinctly non-negligible degree . he held that it was too close to an “affective commitment. in contrast to Revel.” namely. his affinities were with social scientists’ interest in the “determinants and limits of action. . even hostile to it. A century ago. turned up by the accidents of life and having no other basis than a passing intuition. For the assumed basis for history’s coherence has changed once again. When this hope failed. regardless of the deliberate intentions of the actors. For his part. including the historiens historisants. the Annales version of cultural history) suffered from three defects. First. . he contended that the histoire des mentalités is likely to generate incoherence —for its “lack of definition . was skeptical of this turn. the feeling of nostalgia that Furet claims had been generated in France by the tremendous economic progress of the preceding two decades. leads to the unending pursuit of new research topics.”39 In his view the histoire des mentalités (that is. Furet favored a “problem-oriented” and also conceptualized form of history.” their concern for “isolating constants.coherence and incoherence 221 already been noted. he suggested that it blurred the “classic distinction” between objective behavior and the subjective perception of that behavior. if not laws. But Furet. It is no longer to be found in the articulating of a historically sensitive social science. Rather. knowledge.”40 *** Thus the issue of coherence again asserts itself. What is striking now is the degree to which the Febvrean-BraudellianFuretian version of coherence has become passé. although possibly provisional. the basis for history’s coherence was held to lie in the possibility of eventually constructing a single. Among “traditional” historians.

an underlying ontological unity. that is often (although far from always) admitted as such. by 1999. Quixote.45 Many of these topics were taken up by the new cultural history. Beyond the Cultural Turn. Prison. to some degree. Richard Biernacki. as was. Another stimulus came from the anthropologist Clifford Geertz. The New Cultural History. whose notion of the interpretation of cultures—and emphasis on “thick description”—resonated with many historians. historians . Medicine.47 There is no need here to survey the efflorescence of cultural history since the early 1980s. its origins go back to various developments in the early 1970s and even before. since there is also an old cultural history). Foucault’s cynical attitude toward conventional notions of science and objectivity. and Sex” (to quote a list offered by the philosopher Ian Hacking in 1981). Madness. for their work. Nietzsche. Language. and what is the character of the coherence that it brings to history? As Biernacki notes. it was possible for Victoria Bonnell and Lynn Hunt to publish a new anthology. the last twenty years have witnessed a battle between two competing “paradigms” for the researching and writing of history: social history and cultural history (or rather. which tended to blur the boundaries between literary and historical analysis. is surely right in asserting that “the new cultural history succeeded some time ago in making its agenda preeminent. Military.”49 But what is the character of this preeminence. the new cultural historians purported to assume.46 Finally. Life. that was much more substantial than Hunt’s earlier The New Cultural History.48 Beyond the Cultural Turn is a monument of the triumph—but also of certain of the problems—of cultural history in its new mode.44 Still another influence was Michel Foucault.43 However.222 new literary history of arbitrariness—an arbitrariness. particularly his notions of habitus and of cultural capital. Sade. One of the most insightful contributors to the collection.42 It is a complex story that can only be touched on here. moreover. Masturbation. Biernacki suggests that in this assumption about the ground of history. though that footing is now cultural and linguistic rather than (or as much as) social and economic” (63). there was the so-called “new historicism” in literary criticism. Suffice it to say that. Another stimulus came from the sociology of culture proposed by Pierre Bourdieu. Within the most highly professionalized circles of the discipline. The emergence of the new cultural history was formally announced in Lynn Hunt’s 1989 edited collection. One source of the new cultural history was the Annales’ history of mentalités. who in various historio-philosophical works touched on such topics as “Labour. pioneered by Stephen Greenblatt and others. Psychiatry. for they “followed the social historians in building explanations that rest on appeals to a ‘real’ and irreducible ground of history. the new cultural history.

For the paradigm notion. Biernacki shows that the new cultural historians’ claim to have discovered the “grounding reality” of society and history is without justification. and Roger Chartier—took up Geertz’s notion of culture as a “grounding reality. approaches that belonged to the interpretive and hermeneutic tradition” (1. a useful construction” (64). or processes can be causally attributed. enriching character of such works as Darnton’s The Great Cat Massacre and Hunt’s Politics. introduced by . the very terminology of “paradigm” underscores the element of postulation that is involved. and Class in the French Revolution. that the new cultural history rests on an assumed ontological claim. He shows. Lynn Hunt. Without denying what he sees as the revelatory. “Culture” is defined here in the Geertzian way. Second. . where Geertz had famously asserted that “culture is not a power. Robert Darnton. Indeed. behaviors. Consider Hunt and Bonnell. institutions. that the true grounding reality of history is the socioeconomic dimension of society. Hunt and Bonnell also observe that there is disagreement “about the paradigm to be chosen to organize social scientific research” (1. it is a context. Biernacki suggests that “we may have reached a point at which essentializing the semiotic dimension or ‘culture’ as a naturally given dimension of analysis is shutting off reflection and disabling possibly illuminating interpretations of history” (64–65). path-breaking. Thus “meaning” (in the Geertzian cultural sense) is assumed to be ontologically fundamental. . (One needs to add that there was likewise no justification for the ontological view that underlay social history—explicitly in the case of Marxist or Marxisant historians. .” as something that is a “general and necessary truth rather than . . my emphasis). implicitly in other cases—namely. something within which they can be intelligibly—that is. and .51 Most relevant to my argument here are two of Biernacki’s points. they generally fell into two broad categories: research paradigms . first. And in fact the arbitrariness of the decision for or against cultural or social history is recognized by the most self-aware of our advanced historians.) It follows from this lack of justification that the writing of the new cultural history (as of the old social history) is carried out on the basis of what is essentially a choice.”50 Biernacki shows that influential cultural historians—among them. . Language. namely that what is really real is culture.coherence and incoherence 223 followed some not well-argued bits of Geertz’s account of culture in The Interpretation of Cultures. . thickly— described. . It is no more than that. my emphasis). something to which social events. . as “webs of meaning” that permeate the life of a human society. Their introduction to Beyond the Cultural Turn suggests that “since World War II new intellectual fashions in the social sciences have emerged in rapid succession .

It is striking the extent to which historians since the early 1970s took up the terminology of “paradigm” and applied it to their own discipline. For it offers an important insight into the limits of historiographical coherence. but that the presence of a paradigm is crucial if historical research is to be done in the right way. Just because he is working only for an audience of colleagues.”53 The habit of deploying the paradigm notion has grown immensely since 1973. and Peter Burke’s 1990 study. . According to Kuhn. where he states that “a paradigm is what you use when the theory isn’t there. . Kuhn held. not to mention Hunt’s 1986 article announcing the fall of the Annales paradigm. One chooses. S. and also interrogated. and then proceeds on the basis of the choice that one has made.”52 To put this another way: if it were justified. One implication to be drawn from Hunt and Bonnell is that. The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School. because the social sciences—and presumably also history—lack “the unparalleled insulation of mature scientific communities from the demands of the laity and of everyday life. to justify a particular mode of doing history. Another implication. “T. The paradigm notion needs to be reflected on. Kuhn’s Theory of Science and Its Implications for History. one has to conclude that many historians and historical theorists think that it is not only applicable to history.224 new literary history Thomas S. French Historical Method: The Annales Paradigm. The basic question that needs to be posed is: Is the paradigm notion applicable to historical studies or social science at all? From their frequent deployment of the term (and presumably of the notion as well). as in Traian Stoianovich’s 1976 book. in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions he actually insisted that the paradigm notion does not apply to the social sciences. the members of a mature scientific community work from a single paradigm or from a closely related set. On the contrary. 1929–89. it would not be a paradigm. there is actually no need for an ontological foundation. Kuhn’s notions of paradigm and revolution have been repeatedly applied to the Annales school. conversely. Historians’ invocation of Kuhn was already noted by David Hollinger in a widely cited 1973 article. . “normally.” But this is not the case in the social sciences. This is something that Kuhn willingly acknowledged in his 1995 Athens interview. In particular. A final implication is that neither approach can justifiably claim priority over the other. carries with it a strong hint of the arbitrary and unfounded. an audience that . is that no mode of doing history can establish what is ontologically foundational— if anything at all is.55 Kuhn himself would not have agreed. Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.54 Kuhn’s notion has also been routinely applied to the conflict between social history and (new) cultural history.

who see history as the carrying out of politics by other means. not least because it can easily be hijacked by forces outside the university that are unlikely to be willing to encourage work that is in any sense critical of extant political reality. Kuhn vastly overemphasized the degree of separation that natural science has from the social world in which it is located. the scientist can take a single set of standards for granted. dispose of one problem and get on to the next more quickly than those who work for a more heterodox group”. he “can . Rather. scientizing tendency is somewhat less misguided. approaches. because the scientist works for an audience of colleagues that shares his own values and beliefs and is insulated from society. it strengthens the point. as many commentators have argued.57 There are undoubtedly some historians who resonate to Kuhn’s account of the natural sciences and who prefer paradigmatic unity because they think that such unity conduces to solving a coherent set of historical problems—while also raising history’s prestige by making it look more like a “real” science.58 This latter. they can be justified only on pragmatic grounds—and only weakly so at that. paradigms cannot be theoretically. he “can take a single set of standards for granted”.coherence and incoherence 225 shares his own values and beliefs. let alone ontologically. When deployed .” instead of having to focus on problems that “urgently need solution” within society but for which tools conducive to solving those problems efficiently may well not exist. sometimes political commitment seems to serve as a substitute for intelligent debate about different genres. justified. . especially when the paradigm notion is conceived of narrowly. and research programs. According to the theory. and he can “concentrate his attention upon problems that he has good reason to believe he will be able to solve. In Kuhn’s theory. The former. and for whom commitment to a paradigm is closely connected to one or another political commitment— indeed. . For the claim would then be that even in the natural sciences pursuers of knowledge are not able to detach themselves entirely from extra-scientific considerations—considerations that serve to make cross-cuts through what would otherwise be the purity of their scientific commitment to a paradigm.”56 No doubt. a paradigm has the great advantage of generating solvable puzzles. less as a paradigm in any broad sense than as a subdisciplinary research program. There are other historians. clearly. which amounts to the imposition of a factitious political coherence on history. In Kuhn’s view. and of making it clear without any great need for hesitation which puzzles these are. But this criticism of Kuhn in no way diminishes the point that I am making here—on the contrary. politicizing tendency. strikes me as dangerous. and about the actual merits or demerits of specific works.

the mode of “high” intellectual history that I specialize in does not connect well with either the social history or the cultural history paradigm. Over the course of a survey that ranged from Herodotus to Foucault. part of the function of historical study is surely to shuffle the cards. as counterproductive. showing the various ways in which the past is actually incoherent with itself and with our expectations of it. Let me suggest first of all that it is a considerable mistake to regard history as an enterprise that ought to be fixated on a search for coherence. it has to be a coherence that is offered by historians—not by “historical reality. it is significant that I have been speaking throughout of historiographical coherence more than of historical coherence. such as graduate students) to find research topics.” may well be acceptable as voluntary commitments. it is clear that the historian’s choice of paradigm may well relate less to a decision as to what set of problems is richest in solvable puzzles than it does to the historian’s own life-world preferences. but I am inclined to think that the research productivity of some of my age cohort has been . and. two questions acquire a certain force: How seriously should we take this historian-generated coherence?. For a point that Leonard Krieger made in his book Time’s Reasons: Philosophies of History Old and New remains. In view of these facts.226 new literary history in this way.” and concluded that “there is no simple past whereof a historian can be a pure historian. besides coherence? *** These questions.60 While research programs. What other things should historians offer. which are closely interconnected. For example. junior members. On the contrary. even “paradigms. Krieger emphasized the persistent “problem of the weakness of historical coherence. Of course.” Moreover. to my mind. entirely valid.”59 What this means is that. can only be touched upon here (a comprehensive answer to the second question alone would require a treatise of its own). in a literal sense. focus on a common set of research problems can contribute to research productivity. the notion that historians generally ought to be judged according to the degree of their work’s accordance with a currently dominant paradigm strikes me as crippling and. Since I have never taken such disconnections very seriously this has not mattered to me. Yet even here one has to be sensitive to the limits and disadvantages of the historiographical coherence that is thus proposed. most obviously by making it easier for members of the discipline (especially unformed. insofar as there is any coherence at all. and in which the study of the past relies on conflicting modes of understanding and engagement.

Finally. One of the things that historians offer. ed. Because historians—at least many of them—deal with matters that. In this sense historians are better placed to be epistemologically responsible than are those scholars and social scientists whose business it is to deal with the immediate and pressing practicalities of the moment. contributing historical knowledge and perspectives to other people besides those who are themselves professional historians. besides being “pure” historians. business persons. the present. in historians’ representations of the past. 1989) and Beyond the Cultural Turn: New Directions in the Study of Society and . many things besides coherence. is a critical perspective on the past. almost as foreigners in their midst. judges. who are more focused on the preoccupations of their disciplinary colleagues. therapists. contributing to the articulation of a (now admittedly arbitrary) disciplinary paradigm. in historians’ assumptions as they seek to represent the past. University of Virginia NOTES 1 See The New Cultural History. or ought to offer. But is the primary task of historians to offer coherence in any case? I do not think so. as well as increase it. clergy. and all the rest. While still remaining historians by virtue of their focus on the past and their commitment to rules of evidence and argument that have stood the test of time. or ought to offer. the pursuit of historiographical coherence can diminish productivity and learning.” lend themselves to some measure of dispassionate examination. they have a special opportunity to exercise the utmost care in their treatment of evidence and in their articulation of the arguments that support their claims. In short. Another thing that historians offer. Only if historians can be epistemologically responsible can we even begin to expect such responsibility from our politicians. such historians may appear to other historians.coherence and incoherence 227 impaired by too great a reverence for disciplinary paradigms that do not well accommodate their interests and talents. and continue to offer. and in dominant and perhaps also non-dominant assumptions in the present concerning the future. Indeed. on the present. intelligence agencies. if coherence were their main offering. lawyers. they would be mythmakers and fabulists without being historians at all. because they are “dead and gone. historians also have the opportunity to be “hybrid” or “hyphenated” historians. and the past. Criticism here means the revealing of fissures and contradictions— in the past. Lynn Hunt (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. for historians have offered. and on our present use of the past. is a modeling of high epistemological standards.

1995). the need to engage with the academic and political radicalisms that Krieger held had entered into the discipline by the late 1970s and early 1980s. W. (London: Fitzroy Dearborn. 209–23. 8 Ubiratan D’Ambrosio. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi (1979. In the midst of the French collapse he escaped to England from Dunkirk and then returned home via Brittany. “‘Grand Narrative’ and the Discipline of History. What is History? (New York: Knopf. The fulcrum of Krieger’s book is the destabilization of historical coherence that occurred around the beginning of the twentieth century (107 and passim). Carr. quoted in E. J. 2 vols. 1975).” History and Theory 18 (1979): 197–222. . 2 vols. 9 On Berr.” excerpted in The Varieties of History from Voltaire to the Present. F. Friedrich (New York: Dover. trans. chapter 8. Hegel. trans. . 1: 14. 6 The title of the journal has varied slightly since its founding. “Henri Berr and the ‘Terrible Craving for Synthesis. preceding the title page of Beyond the Cultural Turn. 153–87.. ed. Sibree. 13. Sciences Sociales. W. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Hegel. J. F. Language and Historical Representation: Getting the Story Crooked (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. it is now called Annales: Histoire. The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School. J. 2 The Cambridge Modern History: Its Origins. Authorship. 1999). 1989).” in Encyclopedia of Historians and Historical Writing. . ed. Nisbet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. especially the editors’ introductions. The Philosophy of History. see Allan Megill. 4 On the need for written records: G. 151–73. MA: Harvard University Press. Fritz Stern (New York: Vintage. Bloch volunteered for Army service in 1939. 1956). . when the book was essentially completed. Frank Ankersmit and Hans Kellner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. repr. 247–49. repr. 1989). The list of titles. “Disorderly Conduct: Braudel’s Mediterranean Satire (A Review of Reviews). H. 1973). Bury.” in A New Philosophy of History. trans. on the state as required for history: G. 11 Braudel. The Mediterranean. and Kellner. Academy and Community: The Foundation of the French Historical Profession (Cambridge. 7 Although over fifty. see Peter Burke. emphasize the incoherence of the work: Hexter. Lucien. 1990). in 1943. Hexter and Hans Kellner. Later.228 new literary history Culture. “Febvre. Victoria Bonnell and Lynn Hunt (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1: 379. H. J. 111. Lectures on the Philosophy of World History: Introduction: Reason in History. 3. C. ed. 12 Two of the most insightful readers of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World. H. 219–20. B. “The Science of History. his Jewish ancestry led to his exclusion from his teaching position under Vichy’s anti-Semitic laws. and Production (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. esp.’” 10 Fernand Braudel. “Fernand Braudel and the Monde braudellien . The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. 263– 71. (New York: Harper and Row. see William R. 1929–89 (Cambridge: Polity.” which runs along a similar track. 1962). 1973). for which activity he was shot by the Germans in June 1944. For a discussion of how the notion of a grand narrative (often called “universal history”) has shadowed the historical discipline from its beginning. in Kellner. 2nd ed. Between military service and the Resistance. 1984). The most erudite and searching discussion of the role of coherence in Western historical writing is Leonard Krieger.” that Bonnell and Hunt edit. its motive.. 3 Jean-François Lyotard.” Journal of Modern History 44 (1972): 480–539. Keylor. gives a good idea of the range and kind of topics embraced by the new cultural history. he became a Resistance leader in Lyon. Stern also excerpts Lord Acton’s 1898 “Letter to the Contributors to the Cambridge Modern History. Siân Reynolds. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. 1999). 1907). 1975). ed. B. “Studies on the History of Society and Culture. 5 For a relatively brief account of the Annales school. Kelly Boyd. Time’s Reasons: Philosophies of History Old and New (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ed. trans. Beyond the Cultural Turn is number 34 in a book series.

“Histoire et sciences sociales: La longue duré L’histoire traditionnelle .htm (accessed March 2004). “De 1892 à 1933: Examen de conscience d’une histoire et d’un historien: Leçon d’ouverture au Collège de France. Peter Burke. 1999). 22 (2003). 1996). in English as “A New Kind of History. 2000).” interview by François Ewald and Jean-Jacques Brochier.” 92–100 (quote on 97).htm (accessed September 2003). “Braudel and Interscience: A Preacher to Empty Pews?” (paper for the Vth Journées Braudeliennes. 12. 55–60. 14 Lucien Febvre. “Leçon d’ouverture. esp.” in Combats pour l’histoire (1953. Magazine littéraire. Braudel Papers no. 1973). K. 1987). L’histoire en miettes: Des “Annales” à la “nouvelle histoire” (Paris: Éditions La Découverte. 33 I draw here on “Sur une forme d’histoire qui n’est pas la nôtre: L’histoire historisante. 19 Febvre. October 1–2.) Of course. 13 décembre 1933. of the Encyclopedia. 27 “Une vie pour l’histoire. 83. 212 (Nov. Folca (New York: Routledge. 16. 1980).. 16 A list of the editors and advisors of the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science is given on the verso of the title page of Thomas S. in Combats. 27– 43. “The Science of History” (see note 2.” in Combats.” Instituto Fernand Braudel de Economia Mundial. Without specifically mentioning Bury. 55–60. Sur la “crise” de l’histoire (Paris: Belin. 18 Lucien Febvre. Colin. 1962).D. esp. Sur la “crise. printings of the book’s second. “Leçon d’ouverture. Ecrits sur l’histoire (Paris: Sarah Matthews (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Binghamton University. 20 Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre. (The presence of Kuhn’s work in the Encyclopedia is also signaled in some. An English translation of Braudel’s Écrits is available as On History. 219–20. see Henri Berr. Febvre attacks this notion of history in his “Leçon d’ouverture.” Annales d’histoire économique et sociale 1 (1929): 1. “Contre l’esprit de spécialité: Une lettre de 1933. 1941). ed. dissertation.” in Combats. “Histoire et sociologie. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. McNeill. 94–96 (the passages in quotation marks are all from Braudel). For Berr’s views. http://www. On the fragmentation theme. Kuhn’s work completely blew apart the idea of a single. both versions hereafter cited in text. repr. universal foundation for all the sciences.coherence and incoherence 229 13 Lucien 161–247. see François Dosse. “Braudel and Interscience. French pagination preceding the English. “Vivre l’histoire. Combats. 31 See Febvre. 1992).” in Combats. “Fernand Braudel. 24 William H. 114–18 (quote on 117). Wallerstein’s article led me efficiently to the previous several quotations. 26 Braudel. Paris: A.” 20. 105.” in Braudel. number 2. An important statement is Lucien Febvre.” published in Revue de synthèse in 1936. 104–06. which originally appeared as volume 2. generally early.” in Écrits sur l’histoire. 25 Fernand Braudel. 17 Febvre. University of Virginia. 32 Noiriel. 15 Febvre. 20. 22 These collective initiatives are the focus of Kelly Ann Mulroney.binghamton. Historian.” in Febvre. A New Kind of History and Other Essays. “Pour une histoire dirigée: Les recherches collectives et l’avenir de l’histoire. 16. “Team Research and Interdisciplinarity in French Social Science.” in Febvre. “Vivre l’histoire: Propos d’initiation” (talk at the École Normale Supérieure. 419–38. trans. 8. repr.” in Combats. 1984): 22. enlarged edition [Chicago: University of Chicago Press. “Pour une histoire dirigée. trans.” 30 Gérard Noiriel. 1969). 1925–1952” (Ph. Kuhn. http:// fbc.” Combats. 23 See Combats.braudel. no. 28 Immanuel Wallerstein. 21 See Bury. 1970]. “À nos lecteurs. in Combats. above). 29 Wallerstein.

moral.” History of the Human Sciences 9 (1996): 101– 26. Politics. rev. 1977). see The New Historicism Reader. 50 Geertz. ed. 49 Richard Biernacki. Charles-Victor Langlois and Charles Seignobos. see Jacques Barzun. “Beyond the Annales. 48 Beyond the Cultural Turn. repr. and thereby empty. 115. ed. 51 Robert Darnton. There was some doubt. above).230 new literary history et la synthèse historique (Paris: F. “French History in the Last Twenty Years: The Rise and Fall of the Annales Paradigm. which includes.) 38 Hunt. 62. no. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1984). G. Richard Nice (Cambridge.” Journal of Modern History 55 (1983). 34 When in 1969–70 two third-generation Annalistes. quoted in Biernacki. “The Annales: Continuities and Discontinuities. “Beyond the Annales.” 404–5.” in The Varieties of History from Voltaire to the Present. or intellectual value that exceeds the sociohistorical conditions under which they arose. ed. cited in Combats. 1984]. In the Workshop of History.” 37 François Furet. character of the new cultural . (I follow Lynn Hunt in focusing on the Revel and Furet articles. Hunt (see note 1. Kelley. 44 Clifford Geertz. Outline of a Theory of Practice. G. “Cultural History: A Synthesis. ed. 45. at 390–92. The Interpretation of Cultures. for a survey. “The Old Cultural History. Revel evokes Michel Foucault’s well-known hypothesis of “the death of man. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes in French Cultural History (New York: Vintage.. in Foucault: A Critical Reader. 1993). 1984). a “Discussion avec un historien historisant” dating from 1911. The Furet article is a minor variant of the introduction to Furet’s book. An earlier commentator who pointed out the all-embracing. 27. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books. the “old” cultural history was committed to the notion that it was possible to write the histories of cultural objects and practices seen as having some element of aesthetic. 46 Pierre Bourdieu..” Journal of Contemporary History 21 (1986): 209–24. 1994). trans. 1986). 41 Versions of this position include Ernst Bernheim. “Method and Metaphor after the New Cultural History. Holt. 43 The New Cultural History. 35 Lynn Hunt. 389–410. The Idea of History. Language.” in Beyond the Cultural Turn. Lehrbuch der historischen Methode (Munich: Duncker and Humblot. 3/4 (Winter/Spring 1978): 16. 14. R. C. ed. 45 Ian Hacking. and.” 215–218. above). with Lectures 1926–1928. Bonnell and Hunt (see note 1. trans. MA: Harvard University Press. “Michel Foucault’s History of Culture. in chapter 2. that the Annalistes were as marginal in the French historical profession as they seemed to be claiming (personal recollection). “The Archaeology of Foucault” (originally published in New York Review of Books). Bourdieu. 387–402. 1921). H.” 397. ed.” in The New Cultural History. 1904). the conflict of the Annalistes with their supposedly entrenched traditionalist opponents was one topic of conversation. Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. at Toronto. David C. “Rise and Fall of the Annales Paradigm. Lynn Hunt. New York: H. Hoy (Oxford: Blackwell. 36 Jacques Revel. 42 In brief. trans. quoted by Patricia O’Brien. 1984). 1889). “Beyond the Annales. and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. repr. 63–64. visited the University of Toronto. Aram Veeser (New York: Routledge. 39 Furet. ed. 47 For an overview. Introduction to the Study of History. Jonathan Mandelbaum [Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Alcan. Collingwood.” Review 1. Pierre Goubert and Robert Mandrou. The doubt was justified. Jan van der Dussen (1946. Berry (1898. Stern. In suggesting a turn away from “Man” as the unifying object of analysis. see Donald R. trans. For one statement. 1973). certainly best known. 40 Furet.

and Vassiliki Kindi. 2nd ed. in this regard. . notorious cases. That such a political mode of judgment actually is applied within the present-day American historical profession seems clear from some recent. with a foreword by Fernand Braudel ( (accessed November 2003). Kuhn.hnn. 1976). 55 For one recent instance among historical theorists. ed. 164. a starting point is www. “A Discussion with Thomas S. The best known of these is the case of Michael A. Gary Gutting (Notre Dame. Higham suggested that historians ought to activate a distinction between “causal history” and “moral history. Culture. and he was granted tenure at a prestigious university. 52 Thomas S. NY: Cornell University Press. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. with an Autobiographical Interview. “Ubiquities. Kuhn’s Theory of Science and Its Implications for History” in Paradigms and Revolutions: Appraisals and Applications of Thomas Kuhn’s Philosophy of Science. 58 Foucault’s equation of knowledge with power offers—nefariously. Peter Burke. I think—a justification for judging historians according to the supposed authenticity or inauthenticity of their political commitments rather than on grounds of the methodological validity and insight-creating capacity of their work. Kuhn. French Historical Method: The Annales Paradigm. in Annals of Scholarship 9 (1992): 199–208. “T. For the Bellesiles case as well as some other similar ones. Cabrera. and at least one of his prizes. Aristides Baltas. 1980). Structure. 54 Traian Stoianovich. ed. 117–36.coherence and incoherence 231 historians’ apparently ontological appeal to “culture” is Marilyn Strathern. I see little of such an orientation in the current blithe talk of historiographical paradigms. above). 300. each of which suffers from neglect of the other” (622). Structure. 53 David Hollinger.” entertaining both as “reciprocal modes of understanding. 1929–89 (note 5. Why worry about evidence when the good political cause is being served? But eventually the inconvenient truth came out and Bellesiles’s tenure. James Conant and John Haugeland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 56 Kuhn. Hunt. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School. John Higham.” American Historical Review 67 (1962): 609–25. above). “Beyond Consensus: The Historian as Moral Critic. my emphasis). Kostas Gavroglu. The Road Since Structure: Philosophical Essays. 162. 164. allegedly “professional” readers of his work became orgasmic at his claim that private gun ownership in the United States before the Civil War was rare—a claim that could be seen as supporting the campaign for gun control. see Miguel A. He seems to have received these benefits because early. 60 See. it seems. Time’s Reasons (see note 3. 1970–1993.” History and Theory 40 (2001): 82–102. 2000). “On Language. Bellesiles’s Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture (New York: Knopf. S. these readers failed to notice something that ought to have been perfectly obvious to them: that Bellesiles’s evidence did not support his claim. IN: Notre Dame University Press. Bellesiles’s work received major prizes.” review of The New Cultural History. that “historians must adopt a new agenda for historical research” (100. The article originally appeared in the American Historical Review 78 (1973): 370–393. of course. 166–67. One could cite many other examples. ed.” in Kuhn. were revoked. 2000). 57 Kuhn. As a result of this political solidarity. 59 Krieger.” This means. and Social Action. Cabrera suggests that history “is currently undergoing a new change of paradigm. He then goes on to outline what this agenda must be. 1970).

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