The School of the Annales is a different way of studying history and a historiographic movement that emerged in the 20th century. This school takes anthropological, sociological, economic, geographical, and psychological events into consideration when studying history.
Traditionally, only political events and the fall of important figures were used to determine the end of certain historical eras, such as the death of Napoleon or the fall of Julius Caesar. The School of the Annales seeks to explain longer eras in human history, not limited only by leaders.
It began in France in 1929 as a history magazine, and has become a historiographical reference not only for the Gallic country, but for many historians around the world. This school deals primarily with the historical period prior to the French Revolution, but is not limited exclusively to this.
The Annales school originally started as a magazine in 1929, published in Strasbourg, France. Its name changed three times throughout history, and it was in 1994 when it was given the name it has now: Annales. History and social sciences .
The magazine was founded by French historians Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, who taught at the University of Strasbourg, and the magazine was founded in that French city.
They both stuck to the sociological views of their colleagues at the University of Strasbourg to create a different perspective on history. Until then, military, diplomatic, and political terms were used to establish the different periods of importance in history.
Instead, the work of these two authors pioneered the interpretation of long-term changes in the history of mankind, beyond the abrupt changes that have been studied so far.
Changes in historiography
The thoughts of the historians of this school focused on two specific changes. The first was the opposition against empiricism that prevailed in the historians of the time. This entailed a focus on social groups and the collective mentality of human beings.
This is reflected in the beliefs that were held in ancient civilizations of the power that a king could have. It was a common belief that many of the ancient monarchs could cure diseases or had direct contact with God. These beliefs were held for a long period of time.
Marc Bloch studied these beliefs and interpreted them as group mentalities that were present in civilizations for a large part of their history. This long-term approach defined the mindset of the historians of the School of the Annales.
Objections against positivism
The short-term vision was associated with the positivist school mentality. This school was credited with the thought that changes in history occurred at specific times, rather than unfolding over the passage of time.
The belief of this school was that the past was too distant to use as a reference. This made historians less objective with their interpretations and, therefore, their ideas lost veracity.
Attention to the mentalities of specific groups
In 1941 Lucien Febvre proposed the study of the mentality of certain groups, finding that people’s emotions had an important effect on the development of history.
This became one of the main characteristics of the Annales movement, as emotions had never been considered in historiographical terms.
The methodology of this school is defined by three stages of thought from its creation in 1929 to the present. Each of these stages presents a different approach, which is influenced by the most important historians of the time.
– The first stage was one in which the thought of the school was radically opposed to the traditional vision of history, and was led by Bloch and Febvre.
– The second stage was the one that shaped the school of the Annales as a school of thought. The idea conjecture and the long-term study method sought to define changes throughout history. This stage was headed by the historians Fernand Braudel and Ernst Labrousse.
– The last stage fragments a little more the historiographic thought of its members, and the socio-economic approach of the time becomes socio-cultural. This change was due to the large number of historians who contributed knowledge to the Annales. Unlike the other two phases, it had no exponents.
Bloch’s first contribution related to this school was a study in which he compared the “delusional” beliefs of England and France about the supernatural powers that their kings had (such as the ability to cure diseases). He conducted the long-term study and sought to identify the causes of this phenomenon.
He was one of the founders of the Annales magazine; furthermore, he conceptualized more modernly what feudalism was on a long-term scale and its relation to the history of mankind.
Febvre was an expert historian in a slightly more modern age than Bloch’s, but his understanding of linguistics gave the school a fundamental contribution.
He worked with religion and demonstrated how it was impossible to be an atheist in the 16th century, using the linguistics of the time as a basis.
Labrousse defined the collective phenomena that occurred throughout history as conjecture. That is, he explained that these phenomena were nothing more than trends; a belief that became commonplace and was then taken for granted by a large number of people. He contributed mainly regional history studies for the Annales.
Braudel is considered one of the best historians of all time, and his contributions served to be appreciated as the father of modern historiography.
He divided history into three periods: geographical time, social time, and individual time. However, he assured that these three times were united and complemented each other, to give a concrete shape to history.
- Historiography – The Annales School of Thought, (nd)., May 10, 2007. Taken from h2g2.com
- Annales d’histoire économique et sociale (1928—), University of Toronto, (nd). Taken from utoronto.ca
- Annales School, Institute of Historical Research, 2008. Taken from history.ac.uk
- The Annales School, A. Burguiere, (nd). Taken from cornell.edu
- Annales School, Wikipedia in English, April 23, 2018. Taken from wikipedia.org