A Comparative Essay on Historical Schools: The Annales and Marxist Historiography
Historical Interpretation, as a term, is a skill that historians acquire to describe human events. As historians gather information regarding the past and analyze the artifacts, they are left with the task to explain their findings to the masses. For many years, profound members of society were used as primary sources for historical events. But as the world turned, historians began to question the grounds of which these “facts” stood. How are the rulers and priest to be the only true source of widespread events? Such questions gave birth to schools of historical interpretation. These schools became well- known on their scrutiny of historical facts to the point where history became a specialized field with various focal points, such as linguistics, agriculture, cliometrics, culture, and many more. This essay will compare the analytical styles of the Annales and the Marxists historians. Although these schools recognize the superstructure of socioeconomic relationships, they have different approaches and motivations for their historical analyses which has changed the way history is studied. The Annales School is a group of historians who innovated historical research. They focused on properly documenting French history prior to the French Revolution. Prior to their research, french history was dominated by Marxism and was made up mostly from the vantage point of the leaders and other well known figures. The Annales vigorously opposed Marxism due to its tendency to discredit the natural causes and individualism that also play a major part in history. However, the Annales countered Marxism’s monopolizing ways by presenting their socially scientific approach. The Annales was founded by two Strasburg professors, who taught history and it was through their connection that they were able to become a school of historical interpretation. Co-founders, Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch developed a scholarly journal that incorporated their approach and was published in 1929. This groundbreaking article was titled “Annales d'Histoire Economique et social” which was subtle in its initial push for change in historical documentation. As they began this journey as the Annales, they opted for historians to examine the state of France as it is and then deduce history rather than judge the present based on the past. Although there works are one in the same, they had different approaches that worked well together. Bloch contributed an agrarian and comparative perspective, while Febvre’s contribution was geared more toward combining history and the social sciences. In the Annales School: An Intellectual History, Andre Burguiere states “the act of placing the present in perspective by setting it against what the past can teach us does not lead to skepticism but to a spirit of tolerance and responsibility.” This tells us that the Annales felt as though history should be judged not by the “great men” alone but by the masses. And the only way to get history outside of the proverbial box is to take into consideration the ideals of all men and evaluate them along with economic and material withholding of their country. In order to fully capture an unbiased survey of history Febvre and Bloch pushed for an intercontinental journal. This would allow them to expand their practices not only by incorporating other disciplines but also understanding these events from a broader perspective. Besides their interdisciplinary approach, they also wanted to transform history into a social science. For them, this would prove to be more practical and would be made up of checkable facts and resources. By turning history into a social science, collective beliefs and customs would be taken into consideration. With these approaches, Bloch and Febvre makes up the first generation of the Annales School of Historical Interpretation but their works are still being used, updated, and adapted in...
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