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Annales This!

I am so entrenched in my Historical Theory class, that I still can’t come up with anything to write about other than theory itself. Since misery loves company, I’m going to share a little of what I’ve read today.

Today, I read about Annales, a French method of history which focuses less on major events, and leans more to analyzing the social history of cultural practices. Co-founded in 1929 by historians Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch, Annales tends to focus on the social scientific view of Premodern History. Annales theory was developed as a counter to the popular French historian method of only focusing on economic and political events during the rise of industrialism

Annalistes tend to focus on historical patterns that are identified from social,economic, and cultural history statistics, as well as medical reports, family studies, and psychoanalysis. They focus on geographical, historical, and sociological effects of particular cultures in particular regions. Annales historians also tend to focus on the tendencies of a culture as they develop over long periods of time. During the 1970’s, Annales was expanded to group mentality of particular cultures as well, although that course of analysis has seemingly died off in the last couple of decades.

French born, Annales theory has become popular in Europe and South America. In North America and Britain, it is largely ignored for more fact and class struggle driven approaches such as Empirical, Marxist, and Post Modernism.

There you go; you now know what I’ve learned about Annales theory. Don’t you feel enriched? I certainly do… As well as a little drowsy 🙂

  1. July 12, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Great post!
    How one thinks about history tends to evolve the more you read and learn – and at some point the whole “systematic” and “progress developing” way of sorting out the past becomes useless. A variety of approaches is fun and enriching!


    • July 12, 2011 at 10:15 am

      I watched a great example of Annales theory last night. It came from the National Geographic series “Guns, Germs, and Steel.” This episode was focused on why the world has “have” and “have not” civilizations, using Papua New Guinea as its living example of a “have not” culture.

      The show used all the classic reasoning of Annales theory, such as the Geography and ecology of certain regions over a long period of time (the longue duree is tantamount to Annales theory). The answers provided were relatively simple, but the methods used in arriving to the answers were quite engaging and intriguing!


  2. July 12, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I LOVE that book! One of my all time favorites. And a must read for every human on the planet.
    That – and “Collapse” – which Jared wrote later. He builds further on the argument about human nature and culture, looking at societies, and why and how they mostly collapse.

    And I love how he admires not only the simplicity of the papua new guineas – but also their intelligence, instincts, spontanous manner, and a thinking that is faster, clearer, and more natural than most “civilized” people!

    And now I know the book also fits into Annales theory! 🙂


    • July 12, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      One of his main points when comparing past and present civilizations was to point out that the overall intelligence of a certain culture is decidedly not a factor. He stated on the show that every society has intelligent, dynamic personalities quite capable of leading their respective cultures forward. His conclusions, in the simplest of terms were that the reasons lie in the geographic hands that were dealt to each regional society. The availability and quality of sustainable food, as well as the quality of their ecosystems was and is the key as to how each civilization evolves.

      It was quite fascinating; I definitely need to get the book!


  3. July 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    I understood your last paragraph. When you started writing in English again. 🙂


    • July 12, 2011 at 1:46 pm

      ROFL! You should see how the text books read; their text makes mine look like it was written Larry the Cable Guy!

      On Tue Jul 12th, 2011 1:25 PM EDT


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