HST287 Reading Notes, 30-Sept-2004

The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School 1929-89
Burke, Peter

1) The Old Historiographical Regime and its Critics
2) The Founders: Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch
3) The Age of Braudel
4) The Third Generation
5) The Annales in Global Perspective

Cliometrics: A Definition
Forster, Robert. Achievements of the Annales School
Questions for Class

See also the summary narrative prepared for class.

Burke ends his introduction with the kinds of caveats and self-explanation one has come to expect post-Annales: the work is worth writing because of the sustained "fruitful integration between history and the social sciences"; he apologizes for taking liberties with chronology, and he class for a more massive study of the movement.

1) The Old Historiographical Regime and its Critics

Burke opens with his own  "long durée" look at historical writing (of Europe, is implied):
Henri Berr (1900 Revuue de Synthèse Historique): "ideal of a historical psychology to be achieved by interdisciplinary co-operation."

2) The Founders: Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch

Burke lays out their academic history:

II Strasbourg (1920-1933)

The milieu: Bloch and Febvre are colleagues, along with Charles Blondel, social psychologist, Maurice Halbwachs, a sociologist interested in role of memory, Henri Bremond, a historical psychology, Georges Lefebvre, history of mentalities, Gabriel Le Bras, historical sociology of religion, André Piganiol, ancient historian with anthropological bent.

III Foundation of Annales (1929)

The Annales was conceived as more than just another historical journal. Its editors were consciously determined to take intellectual leadership in economic and social history (p. 21). They  emphasized the need for intellectual exchange between disciplines. In the early years the journal had an economic focus. After 1930, the emphasis shifted to one of social history.

Bloch's later years:

IV The Institutionalization of the Annales

In the 30's Febvre calls for 'new kind of history' that uses collaborative research, problem-oriented approach, and a history of sensibility. He draws student followers. During the war, and after Bloch's execution, Febvre continues to organize his studies around problems (and in reaction to other scholars' works) (p. 27-28)

The Problem of Unbelief: After verifying Rabelais's religious credentials and refuting Lefrancs arguments that Rabelais was a rational atheist, Febvre broadens the work to study the concept of applying the term atheist to 16th century people. He argues that the 'conceptual apparatus' of the time did not allow unbelief. (p. 29)
Problems according to Burke: missing evidence, assumption of homogeneity) But: The work is important "for the questions it asks and the methods by which it pursues them" (p. 32)

As may often be the case, the work's influence skips a generation (Braudel) and is picked up by the following generation, Duby, Mandroff, Le Goff, etc.

Post-war (1947): Febvre institutionalizes Annales followers: sets up department, the Sixth Section, within the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, and fills positions with like-minded scholars.

3) The Age of Braudel

Burke begins by describing the "long gestation of his thesis" much of it written when he was in a prisoner-of-war camp.

The Mediterranean and Phillip II
    The work has been criticized, according to Burke:
      Pros of book:
"Braudel has done more to change our notions of both space and time than any other historian this century." (p. 41)
II The Later Braudel

Braudel succeeds Fabvre as effective director of Annales on Febvre's death in 1956. Spends the 1950s and 60s establishing an interdisciplinary organization and uses his influence and funding to promote "a 'common market of the social sciences, with history as the dominant partner." (p. 44)

The History of Material Culture/ Civilization and Capitalism

III The Rise of Quantitative History (1930s Depression, most work in 50s and 60s)
4) The Third Generation

Post 1968, the Annales has changed. Some say polycentric, some say fragmented, but at least there are some interesting changes. Women scholars, including Christiane Klapisch (Medieval history of the family), Arlette Farge (18th century social world of the street),  Mona Ozouf (festivals during the French Revolution) and Michele Perrot (labour history, history of women) are now included. The generation is also open to ideas from outside France.

I From the Cellar to the Attic

In a possible reeaction to Braudel, or possibly against determinism, there was a shift of interest from economics to cultural history.
II The 'Third Level' of Serial History
In a milieu of quantitative approaches and an emphasis on economic and social history, there was little interest in the history of mentalities. Quantitative history, more specifically a statistical approach, was used to study religious practice, the book and literacy, then expanded to include other areas.
III Reactions: Anthropology, Politics, Narrative

Are quantitative methods reliable? Can statistics answer the questions historians pose? The 1970s brought criticism of these methods as well as a backlash against the "dominance of both social and structural history." (p. 79)
Burke also points out that the writings of the latest Annales school has become quite popular and that the media "may well have encouraged [an interest in this kind of history]" (p. 93)

5) The Annales in Global Perspective

Burke provides a "selective and impressionistic" of the impact of the Annales school on other historians and that of Annales methodologies on other disciplines.
II Striking a Balance

Is the Annales new or unique? Not really. Other historians were developing similar ideas with respect to comparative methods, interdisciplinarity, quantitative methods, cycles regional history and later, anthropological and microhistory. However, the combination was unique to the Annales.

Is/was the movement a success? What is does it has done well: it has focused on Europe of medieval or 1500-1800; it has not absorbed other disciplines into 'total history' but has contributed to economic, social, political and cultural history; and it has redefined categories in history. "According to a common stereotype of the group, they concern themselves with the history of structures over the long term, employ quantitative methods, claim to be scientific, and deny human freedom." (p. 109)

Conclusion: According to Burke, the Annales developments include "problem-oriented history, comparative history, historical psychology, geo-history, the history of the long term, serial history, and historical anthropology, and has "extended the territory of history. . .[to]new sources and the developments of new methods to exploit them...They are also associated with collaboration with other disciplines that ... has been sustained over sixty years, a phenomenon without parallel." (p.111)

Cliometrics: (from The Cliometric Society, http://eh.net/Clio/index-About.html)

"What is Cliometrics? Answers vary: "historical economics," the "economics of history," "econometric history" -- not many years ago, it was called the "new" economic history. The conclusion is all of the above. The word itself was coined in 1960 by Stanley Reiter, a mathematical economist, who was "musing" for a word that described the quantitative economic history work he was discussing with colleagues. He joined the Muse of History, Clio, with the suffix "metrics" from the word "econometrics."

The term has evolved: a good current definition is that Cliometrics is the application of economic theory and quantitative techniques to describe and explain historical economic events. Cliometricians often use large data sets to examine the past in ways that historians have disregarded. Cliometricians attempt to deduce causes of specific economic events, whereas the more traditional economic historian is more interested providing a post hoc description of events."

Forster, Robert. "Achievements of the Annales School," The Journal of Economic History, Vol. 38, No. 1, The Tasks of Economic History (Mar. 1978),  58-76.

He begins with what sounds suspiciously like "academic turf wars."
He places the Annales in (his assumptions/presuppositions of) "French culture" - a dislike of statistics, a disinclination to label themselves as programmatic, a desire to be nuanced and evocative (see "eclat" below), throughly eclectic, "down with the idols".

Braudel: structure, conjoncture, event = the sea depths, the tides, the surface waves
But many Annalistes do not approach Braudel's 'total history' focusing instead on microhistory.

He points out Chaunu recommendation that the "next phase of economic history should be in the area of 'collective mentalities,' investigating the reaction of large groups of people to the total material environment." (p. 68) and concludes this is reflects the shift within the Annales to anthropology, esp. cultural ecology (i.e Burke's 'out of the basement' - move to culture instead of base).

He makes an interesting assertion that the reason the Annalistes are more interested in defining "serial history" as less quantitative analysis and more interpretation is because the data available to them  lends itself to this--it is not all hard numbers (which, in 1978, were about all that could be computerized and analyzed, I might add). (p. 69-70) This places them closer to sociologists.

However, he does admit that though their methods might be flawed,  they have "enormously extended the subject matter of history and suggested new issues, new relationships...[and] a very imaginative use of sources." (p. 72)

Forster: "I venture to say that the Annaliste scholar is more likely to begin with a block of sources . . . and then search for a problem to relate to them, than to begin with the historical question." (p. 72)

(Note: Ratcliffe: "Thus the La nouvelle histoire, a dictionary on new methods which Jacques Le Goff and others published in 1978 unabashedly proclaimed that there existed a new history and that it was a French invention." Before or after above article??)

1) Bloch asks: 'Why should one expect the jurist who is interested in feudalism, the economist who is studying the evolution of property in the countryside in modern times, and the philologist who is working on popular dialects, all to stop at precisely identical frontiers?'
Why indeed. Though his question may be expected to be followed by the answer: one shouldn't, I'm more interested in asking how such divisions or boundaries came to be in the first place, and what maintains them. (I'm back to the concept of academic discipline.)

2) Would the post-structuralist practice of "question everything" exist without the Annales school? That is, by broadening the discipline as it has, does the Annales school invite historians to seek chinks in the armor?

3) In his review of Burke's work, Ratcliffe says: "It is indeed clear that recent decades have been marked by an increasing eclecticism in the methodological orientations of Annales historians and a toning down in their opposition to political history and to the narrative and biographical genres. It may well be, then that by the seventies the Annales moment had passed." In the 14 years since publication of FHR, is that death knell seen as premature or confirmed?

A Wikipedia's entry on the Annales School and historiography
Three reviews of Burke's French Historical Revolution (Ratcliffe, Slavin, Ravitch)
Goldman, Hal. "Marc Bloch: Israèlite de France" The UVM History Review, December 1994, v6.
Robert Forster on the Forster-Ranum translations of articles from the Annales E.S.C., Given at the FHS, sponsored by George Mason. March 19, 1999. Panel in Honor of Orest Ranum:
"the Annales editors claimed to emphasize interdisciplinary history and under Fernand Braudel's leadership it stressed the longue durée and a history layered by three different notions of time that the Master likened to the deep sea currents, the tides, and the white-caps. Yet few French historians achieved the temporal and geographic range that Braudel proclaimed as the goal of the Annales. For the most part, the Annalists wrote more temporally and spatially limited articles. However, three distinctive features pervaded these articles. The problem, the source, and the approach were to be original, if possible imaginative, and melded into a harmonious whole. And if the harmonizing of the three features seemed unexpected or unlikely, so much the better. The Annales strove for éclat."

hope.greenberg@uvm.edu, created/updated: 27-Sept-2004/1-Oct-2004
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