A French school of historiography, founded in 1929 at the University of Strasbourg by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre. They began a journal entitled Annales d'histoire économique et sociale, the name of which was usually shortened to simply Annales. The school has been continued by eminent historians such as Fernand Braudel, Georges Duby, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie and Jacques Le Goff. In some ways the Annales historians suggest many of the worst stereotypes about historical study: that it's impossibly dry, musty, and concerned with mind-numbingly minute details. However, they also represent some of its best qualities: a spirit of flexible methodology, a commitment to apprehending the past on its own terms, and a level of intellectual boldness rarely seen anymore.

The central concern of the Annales school was inaugrating a movement away from the historiographical traditions of the past and the heavy focus on "political narrative and individual biography." The Annales historians argued for a historiographical use of the tools furnished by the social sciences, such as economics, sociology, anthropology, social psychology, linguistics, geography, etc. Bloch and Febvre argued that such an inter-disciplinary approach (what John Tosh called "an end to compartmentalization") would permit historians to develop a more complete and accurate picture of the past in the form of everyday lived experiences (as opposed to merely recounting the deeds of politicians and diplomats). They pioneered then-novel approaches to historical study, such as the history of mentalities and comparitive history, coupled with an eye for gradual change over la longue duree in the pursuit of a "total history."

Febvre argued that psychological anachronism, or the view that peoples of the past thought in the same way as contemporary individuals, was one of the worst sins of historiography. He argued for the pursuit of what he called "historical psychology" (different than the history of ideas or psychohistory), where the psychological experiences of the past (such as the experience of a more brutal and unforgiving encounter with weather patterns and seasonal change) could be brought to light.

The influence of the Annales school on historiography since the late 1920s has been enormous. Their engagement with the social sciences permitted an exchange with Marxism, but many of the Annales historians denied that economic factors were at the root of societal change, focusing more on geography (here their influence on contemporary thinkers such as Jared Diamond can be seen). Their use of the social sciences (especially linguistics) also presages structuralism's "linguistic turn", which shares the Annales historians' desire for a total picture of society (Michel Foucault was notably influenced by Annales). Their influence is perhaps most clearly seen in contemporary historiography, where the view of a history written "from the bottom up" and emphasizing economics and social psychology has flourished.

A partial list of significant books by Annales historians:

The Royal Touch: Monarchy and Miracles in France and England by Marc Bloch
A study of the practice of scrofula in the Middle Ages, where kings could cure sickness by laying hands on the afflicted.

The Historian's Craft by Marc Bloch
An influential work of historiography, still read by students today.

The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II by Fernand Braudel
A classic attempt at writing a "total history" of a particular era and place, deeply concerned with the influence of geographic, economic, and social structures.

Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Centuries by Fernand Braudel
A similarly sweeping and astonishingly detailed history of pre-industrial economy.


Tosh, John. The Pursuit of History. Longman, 2002.
Moon, David. Fernand Braudel and the Annales School. http://www.strath.ac.uk/Departments/History/s_adams/annales.htm

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