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Beyond the ‘New History’

Theodore Zeldin, 16 March 1989

The Identity of France. Vol I: History and Environment 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Sian Reynolds.
Collins, 432 pp., £20, December 1988, 0 00 217773 0
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... of the 19th century. He wanted to liberate himself from nationalism, but did not entirely succeed. Marc Bloch wanted to also: he wrote that there could be no national history, only world history: but he was killed by the Nazis for it. Today nationalism is no longer a religion, only a superstition. The nation has been replaced by the individual, not only ...

Bitter as never before

David Blackbourn: Einstein, 3 February 2000

Einstein's German World 
by Fritz Stern.
Princeton, 335 pp., £15.95, October 1999, 9780691059396
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... historians whose work is ‘weighted down with discourse about the text’, just as his praise for Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre (no argument there) is followed by a peevish complaint about contemporary Annalistes who seem ‘more interested in deconstructing method than in reconstructing the past’. This is an oddly myopic response to the famous ...

Rolling Stone

Peter Burke, 20 August 1981

The Past and the Present 
by Lawrence Stone.
Routledge, 274 pp., £8.75, June 1981, 0 7100 0628 4
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... and society. The history of ‘collective mentalities’, as practised by French historians from Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre before the Second World War, to Philippe Ariès and Michel Vovelle today, appeals to him for much the same reason. The long section on ‘minds and manners.’ in his Crisis of the Aristocracy was one of the first serious ...


Stuart Airlie, 17 November 1983

Medieval Germany and its Neighbours 900-1250 
by K.J. Leyser.
Hambledon, 302 pp., £18, February 1983, 0 907628 08 7
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The Frankish Kingdoms under the Carolingians 751-987 
by Rosamond McKitterick.
Longman, 414 pp., £9.95, June 1983, 0 582 49005 7
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Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Society: Studies presented to J.M. Wallace-Hadrill 
edited by Patrick Wormald, Donald Bullough and Roger Collins.
Blackwell, 345 pp., £27.50, September 1983, 0 631 12661 9
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... and Leszek Kolakowski. The book fails to convey a sense of change in this period, a period that Marc Bloch took as the starting point for his great analysis of Medieval society. With Mr Leyser’s book we enter the authentic world of the early Middle Ages. We don’t merely learn how an 11th-century count settled a feud (hanging his enemy by the legs ...

Where have all the horses gone?

Eric Banks: Horse Power, 5 July 2018

The Age of the Horse: An Equine Journey through Human History 
by Susanna Forrest.
Atlantic, 418 pp., £9.99, October 2017, 978 0 85789 900 2
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Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship 
by Ulrich Raulff, translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp.
Penguin, 448 pp., £9.99, February 2018, 978 0 14 198317 2
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... century; it was its intellectual assistant, its speech therapist.Raulff, who has written books on Marc Bloch, Aby Warburg and Stefan George, makes inspired connections across the history of technology, critical theory, military history, cultural anthropology, philosophy and art. Farewell to the Horse is a narrative that combines odd historical back ...

Men’s Honour, Women’s Lives

Peter Burke, 6 March 1986

Trial by Impotence: Virility and Marriage in Pre-Revolutionary France 
by Pierre Darmon, translated by Paul Keegan.
Chatto, 234 pp., £10.95, March 1985, 9780701129149
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The Boundaries of Eros: Sex, Crime and Sexuality in Renaissance Venice 
by Guido Ruggiero.
Oxford, 223 pp., £25, March 1985, 0 19 503465 1
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The Tuscans and their Families: A Study of the Florentine Catasto of 1427 
by David Herlihy and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber.
Yale, 404 pp., £32, March 1985, 0 300 03056 8
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Women, Family and Ritual in Renaissance Italy 
by Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Chicago, 338 pp., £25.50, September 1985, 0 226 43925 9
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French Women in the Age of Enlightenment 
edited by Samia Spencer.
Indiana, 429 pp., $35, November 1984, 0 253 32481 5
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... Mandrou, a historian of mentalities who had himself been a pupil of Lucien Febvre. Like his friend Marc Bloch, Febvre was a kind of historical anthropologist who insisted on the otherness of the past, and on the need to study the unspoken assumptions in different periods as a way of making this otherness intelligible. To sense the difference between our ...

The Exotic West

Peter Burke, 6 February 1986

The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci 
by Jonathan Spence.
Faber, 350 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 571 13239 1
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Chine et Christianisme: Action et Réaction 
by Jacques Gernet.
Gallimard, 342 pp., frs 154, May 1982, 2 07 026366 5
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... tradition of intellectual history the histoire des mentalités developed between the wars by Marc Bloch, Lucien Febvre, Georges Lefebvre and, not least, the Sinologist Marcel Granet, a follower of Emile Durkheim whose major work, La Pensée Chinoise, appeared in 1934. Characteristic of this approach is the triple stress on collective attitudes ...

The Force of the Anomaly

Perry Anderson: Carlo Ginzburg, 26 April 2012

Threads and Traces: True False Fictive 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi.
California, 328 pp., £20.95, January 2012, 978 0 520 25961 4
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... only, whereas historians deal with groups or institutions too, without penal authority over them. Marc Bloch, in the spirit of the Annales, had rejected the intrusion of judicial models into history, as encouraging not only concern with famous persons rather than collective structures, but moralising treatments of them. For Ginzburg these are sound ...
The Embarrassment of Riches: An Interpretation of Dutch Culture in the Golden Age 
by Simon Schama.
Collins, 698 pp., £19.95, September 1987, 9780002178013
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... as the original sin of the history of mentalities, as practised in the early 20th century by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre. It was part of their Durkheimian heritage. More recently, historians of mentalities have been trying to avoid these dangers, but Schama continues to follow the Durkheimian model, acknowledging a ‘bias towards emphasising those ...

In a Pomegranate Chandelier

T.J. Clark: Benedict Anderson, 21 September 2006

Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 240 pp., £12.99, September 2006, 1 84467 086 4
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Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination 
by Benedict Anderson.
Verso, 224 pp., £14.99, January 2006, 1 84467 037 6
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... religious community – he has some unforgettable pages on the subject, working with ideas from Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre – was the model of togetherness that the nation displaced. Or whose historical authority – whose productivity and plausibility – the nation took up into itself. I am not a partisan of the idea that the age of the ...

Pick a nonce and try a hash

Donald MacKenzie: On Bitcoin, 18 April 2019

... abbot had finally succeeded in prohibiting the townspeople from milling grain by hand, and, as Marc Bloch recorded in an article from 1935, translated in the posthumous collection Land and Work in Medieval Europe (1967), ‘from all over the town the millstones were brought into the monastery, and the monks paved their parlours with them, like so many ...

Singing the Blues

Noël Annan, 22 April 1993

A History of Cambridge University. Vol. IV: 1870-1990 
by Christopher Brooke.
Cambridge, 652 pp., £50, December 1992, 9780521343503
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... here turn communist. Postan was astonished to find that the medievalists ignored the work of Marc Bloch and none of the lectures on political thought mentioned Marx. Brooke explains on his very first page that though Cambridge draws its students from far and wide, ‘it is also profoundly inward-looking.’ So is his book. Of the effect that ...

Hangchow Retrouvé

Emma Rothschild, 22 May 1980

... sort of do-it-yourself structural history. Thus Revel alludes to Lucien Febvre (the founder, with Marc Bloch, of the historical journal Annales ESC), and to Braudel’s ‘longue durée’. But the gourmet history of cuisine is far from the methods of the Annales historians themselves (Le Roy Ladurie, for example, on famine, amenorrhea and wet ...

Unliterary, Unpolished, Unromantic

Charles Nicholl: ‘The Merchant of Prato’, 8 February 2018

The Merchant of Prato: Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City 
by Iris Origo.
Penguin, 400 pp., £10.99, May 2017, 978 0 241 29392 8
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... opening words – epigraphic if not actually placed as an epigraph – are by the historian Marc Bloch: ‘L’historien ressemble à l’ogre de la fable. Là où il flaire la chair humaine, il sait que là est son gibier.’ It is a potent image, at once menacing and playful. The historian is like the ‘ogre of fairy tales’ because when ‘he ...

Nothing Becomes Something

Thomas Laqueur: Pathography, 22 September 2016

When Breath Becomes Air 
by Paul Kalanithi.
Bodley Head, 228 pp., £12.99, February 2016, 978 1 84792 367 7
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... cultures have been attracted for millennia. I think sometimes of the great French historian Marc Bloch on the brink of death: the teenage boy to whom he was handcuffed as the two were about to be executed by the SS in the summer of 1944 was terrified. ‘This will hurt,’ the boy cried. ‘No, my boy, it won’t hurt,’ ...

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