Past, Present, and Future With a Historian; Marc Bloch

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In Marc Bloch’s reflections, The Historian’s Craft, he presents both methods for research and organization, as well as and the nature of presenting history from a historian’s point of view. His main points and over-arching themes which run throughout the entirety of his work focus on the application and perception of time. Bloch’s main concerns are those of the historian and one’s place relative to not only the past and the present, but also the future.

Bloch describes history as, “the science...of men in time”. We are often fascinated by our past and what we may glean from it. Everything we see, do, and encounter in our daily lives resounds in the past in some way. And it is with this view that Bloch outlines how history accounts for a connection to both the past and the present. As a species we have always looked upon our past and wondered whether or not we have, “done well in trying to learn from the past, and whether [we] have learned rightly.” These ideas of the connection between past and present events are at the heart of Bloch’s essay and remain the duty of the historian to fulfill.

Time is relative and so too is our perception of it. As historians, according to Bloch, we must find a way to connect our past and present in order to understand both. These ideas of past and present are not separate. In order to understand one we must also examine the other. Bloch states, “Misunderstanding of the present is the inevitable consequence of ignorance of the past. But a man may wear himself out just as fruitlessly in seeking to understand the past, if he is totally ignorant of the present.” It is this cross-examination that sets the historian apart from other disciplines. Ironically, its is also the integration of alternate disciplines that strengthens the historical reflections.

Therefore, as historians, we must accurately describe the past so that we may understand and explain our present, in order to apply this knowledge as we build a new...
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