Annales d’histoire economique et sociale The Annales School (1928

Major Works: The Royal Touch, M. Bloch; Mediterranean, F. Braudel Keywords: Longue duree, conjuncture, histoire a rebours, collective mentalities, serial history, event Main figures: Durkheim, Bloch, Febvre, Braudel, Labrousse, Ariel, Dupront, Barthes, Goffman, Bourdieau, Ladurie, Wallerstein Predecessors: XVIIIth century social historians: Michelet, Gibbon and Burckhardt Aphorism: 'History’s time is the plasma in which phenomena are immersed and the locus of their intelligibility' - Marc Bloch ‘Recourse to history is meaningful to the extent that history serves to show how that which is has not always been; that is, the things which seem most evident to us are always formed in the confluence of encounters and chances, during the course of a precarious and fragile history. What reason perceives as its necessity, or rather what different forms of rationality offer as their necessary being, can perfectly well be shown to have a history; and the network of contingencies from which it emerges can be traced. Which is not to say that these forms of rationality were irrational, it means that they reside on a base of human practice and human history and that since these things have been made, they can be unmade, as long as we know how it was that they were made.’ The Annales d’histoire économique et sociale was founded by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre in 1928. Its main innovation was to shift the focus on writing problem-oriented analytical history and looking at human activity comprehensively. Peter Burke divides the movement in three phases or generations: ‘1920-1945: the movement is very radical and subversive and strongly opposes the tradition of political history. [Bloch and Febvre]; 1945-1968: the movement becomes a school of thought, with its main concepts (structureconjuncture) and method (serial history of changes over the long term) [Braudel and Labrousse]; 1968-1989: the school becomes more fragmented and shifts its concern from the socioeconomic to the socio-cultural. [Ariel, Bourdieau, Goffman]’ The movement was also defined as a form of structural situationism, in its first phase these historians criticised the positivist school which concentrated on the analysis of short periods, adopted a traditional narrative of events and analysed history almost exclusively from the political-military point of view. The founding fathers of the Annales school mainly comprised of economic historians who rebelled against traditional historians’ idola, identified by François Simiand as: political idol: their obsession with wars and states; individual idol: their obsession with great men; chronological idol: their obsession with looking at development as linear. [François Simiand was a philosopher and economist who greatly inspired the historians of the Annales School. A comprehensive online collection of his works and articles can be found on d_francois/simiand_francois.html] The Annales School historians programmatically examined social phenomena and their underlying causes in depth with a particular attention to immobile stretches of time. Marc Bloch begins to study what he calls ‘collective illusions’ and uses a regressive method (lire l’histoire a rebours). He believes that it is better to proceed from the known to the unknown, hence he reads history backwards. His study on feudal society examines the culture of feudalism, its sense of time, forms of collective memory and the structures of

In the second part. However. The second. This method was to find fertile soil in French radical thought: when accused of having murdered history. Braudel reinforced the interdisciplinarity of the Annales School project by linking it tightly to the currents in anthropology and linguistics of the time. p. ‘Wheels of commerce’ is about the market economy and the ways it coexisted with the non-market economy in early modernity. In the third part Braudel is concerned with undermining the primacy of events in historical writing. Febvre and the English historians. New York: Autonomedia. In fact. In The Royal Touch. ‘The structures of everyday life’. he looks at the belief that the King’s touch could cure people from diseases.] Braudel is the main figure of the movement. Unlike Febvre and Bloch. he was dismissive of two important tools of the Annales school: quantitative history and the history of mentalities and his method was primarily structuralist. and transposing Bergson’s philosophical ideas onto the plane of historical analysis. he takes a global and long-term approach. ‘perspective of the world’. as Burke notes. As Bloch with social psychology and Febvre with linguistics. as well as habit. immobile). There is no reference to symbolic structures nor to history of meaning. Braudel’s main contribution lies in his insistence on writing total histories. the economic. writing a kind of history of structures. is divided in three parts. and he divides time into geographical. Far from being an attempt at searching for ‘authenticity’ in history – which was still prevailing in the positivist historiography of pure facts (histoire historisante)-. However. His aim was to problematise the fact that people believed such improbable things for a prolonged period in time and to point to possible causes of such a phenomenon. as well as building a grille of intelligibility that is heterogeneous enough for multiple points of entry into understanding a period. conjuncture and event. [Michel Foucault ‘The Discourse of History’ in Foucault Live. A survey of this kind could be regarded as a psychological history.feeling and thought. rather than of earlier periods. Collected Interviews. he introduces into historiography the notion of la longue durée. He places individuals and events in their context and. economic life (the place of trade and distribution) and capitalist mechanism (the realm of consumption. his most famous work. Braudel’s work heavily relies on a different discipline: geography. where change is more rapid). . 19. He examines long stretches of time. In this he is trying to show how a history of individual events can only provide a superficial reading of society’s development. he takes a systemic approach which was to heavily influence the world-system theory of Wallerstein. the geographical. respectively corresponding to the frameworks of structure. Barthes and Lévi-Strauss both took issue with his ideas. His main priority was to show that time moves at different speeds. and Bloch partly applies Durkheim’s ideas on collective beliefs and mentalities. Braudel says very little about the history of mentalities and moves away from the Durkheimian influence by shifting the accent on an analysis of geopolitical structures. the technological and so forth. Bloch critiques the idol of origins arguing that historical phenomena ought to be explained in terms of their own time. who freed history from its subjugation to philosophy and the imposition of narrative on the ordering of past events. he looks at the general trends of the Mediterranean people. Each section of his work proposes a different mode of periodisation and time scale. In Civilisation matérielle et capitalisme. for instance. 1961-1984. the School launched a method that underlines the specificity of the emergence of events and philosophically outlines conditions of possibility in the light of an unrepeatability of the past as well as an intervention in the present. Here again in the first part. 1996. La Méditerranée. The first part is in fact a geohistory and had much popularity both as a historical geography and a history of the environment. ‘makes them intelligible at the price of revealing their fundamental unimportance’. his concern is with what sustains life as a whole. social and individual. Braudel divides his object of study into: material civilisation (where production takes place. Foucault replies that the philosophical myth of History had already been destroyed by Bloch. In the third part. as Burke writes. He compares France and England on a long term scale and analyses how collective illusions such as this survived after the Middle Ages.

The critique of the political. individual and chronological idols addresses the problem of explanations that rely on the categories of historical consciousness embedded in a historical moment: the latter is not sufficient to reconstruct and approximate to how it was nor can it be used to order the past in a line of progressive continuity. Braudel adopts the structuralist method in history against the event. especially through cultural anthropology (Goffman. Braudel’s work questions the philosophical presuppositions underlying historiography. Primarily concerned with culture. Dupront examines unconscious attitudes but rather than to Durkheim. in dispensing with the authority of a subject-centred view of historical change and causality and opening up the scope of historical investigations to other disciplines. was an economic historian who largely used the quantitative method and further explored Braudel’s idea of conjuncture and adopted demographic models to write regional histories. The New History in France . Turner. Conjuncture came to be contrasted with the idea of structure. They were however complementary to one another in Labrousse. he returns to Marxist notions of ideology. University of Illinois Press. Aries for instance also rejects quantitative approaches. Centuries of Childhood. when practiced and actualised in research and writing. By conjuncture Labrousse refers to the connection between diverse yet simultaneous phenomena. On other sites Resources: Ferdinand Braudel Centre. can itself be an event. to place the accent on politics proper. he writes a kind of psychological history of the social imagination and contrasts it to collective representations. Bourdieu). Civilisation materielle et capitalisme (1967-1979). Mediterranee. French rural history (1931). Feudal Society (1939). V. The hour of our death. Other studies in the 1960’s and 1970’s ceased to question the causal relationship between events and structures and opted for an understanding of them as mutually reflecting. Labrousse. Bourdieu for instance replaces the notion of social rules with that of habit and strategy. on the other hand. In this he contrasts imaginary relations of individuals to their real conditions of existence. catalyst and creative. 1994.Francois Dosse. The method of the Annales School and the study of events as embedded as well as ramifying into the moment of their emergence is an example of how a theoretical stance. Le Roy Ladurie recuperated the notion of event as primary in historical analysis. To study the structures of everyday life of a given period entails looking into more than the chronological succession of what is recorded as an event. This is the attack on the History of Philosophy that had found its greatest expression in the guise of the Idealism of Hegel and Croce. in the sense that the former identified the short-medium as opposed to the long-term. The third generation moves away from quantitative history to reassert the anthropological realm. The third generation of the Annales school breaks with Braudel’s methodological structuralism and reaffirms the Durkheimian idea of history of mentalities. focusing on natural phenomena and their refraction in culture. The problem of unbelief in the 16th C: the religion of Rabelais (1939).In our view. . and to return to history as narrative. Binghamton University Biographical Information on Ferdinand Braudel Bibliography: The royal touch. dividing it into three types: traumatic.

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