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by M Bloch

In this classic work, distinguished French economic historian, Marc Bloch, discusses the techniques of historical observation, analysis, and criticism, and the reestablishment of historical causation in assessing events. What is the value of history? What is the use of history? How do scholars attempt to unpack it and make connections in a responsible manner?   While the topics of historiography and historical methodology have become increasingly popular, Bloch remains an authority. He argues that history is a whole; no period and no topic can be understood except in relation to other periods and topics. And what is unique about Bloch is that he puts his theories into practice; for example, calling upon both his experience serving in WWI as well as his many years spent in peaceful study and reflection. He also argues that written records are not enough; a historian must draw upon maps, place-names, ancient tools, aerial surveys, folklore, and everything that is available.   This is a work that argues constantly for a wider, more human history. For a history that describes how and why people live and work together. There is a living, breathing connection between the past and the present and it is the historian’s responsibility to do it justice.
Download The Historian's Craft epub
ISBN: 0719000564
ISBN13: 978-0719000560
Category: History
Subcategory: Historical Study & Educational Resources
Author: M Bloch
Language: English
Publisher: Manchester University Press; 1St Edition edition (1954)
Pages: 224 pages
ePUB size: 1868 kb
FB2 size: 1743 kb
Rating: 4.5
Votes: 413
Other Formats: mobi rtf lrf txt

Marc Bloch--veteran of World Wars I and II, historian, professor, writer, French patriot--entreats us in this spare volume to maintain our objectivity, to interpret history with the skepticism of the journalist and the scientific method of the researcher. He identifies some of the pitfalls, the improperly translated idiom, the anthropomorphism of time and place, and relying too heavily on the written accounts of earlier historians, as means by which the understanding of historical events can be skewed. And history must be viewed as a continuum, a rolling cause-and-effect leading from then until now and beyond, events which seldom fit easily into our need to categorize them by fixed dates. But then, historians already know these things, so of what value is "The Historian's Craft" today?

There is a poignancy to this book that Marc Bloch may not have anticipated from his moment in time, but looking back toward the era in which he wrote, the reader can see "The Historian's Craft" as Bloch's attempt to instill order and sanity into the turbulent and almost inexplicably surreal fall of France during World War II. I interpret this book as his salve, his struggle to maintain objectivity during the madness he observed as the Nazis overwhelmed his country. Older than fifty now, having earned the right to a quiet life in academia but refusing to leave his beloved France, Block joined the Resistance, fought against the Nazis, was captured, tortured and killed. And so, "The Historian's Craft" becomes a record to help us interpret Marc Bloch's life and the era of occupied France, as well as lessons in craft from a learned man.

Bloch wrote: ...a generation represents only a relatively short phase. Longer phases are called civilizations."
Journalists and historians have the daunting task of answering the five W's. However, Marc Bloch answers history's who, what, where, when, and why in his somewhat legendary book pertaining to the understanding of the historical method, THE HISTORIAN'S CRAFT, like a stream of thought or a conversation with the reader. Although Bloch's examination is not meant to be a complete analysis, he provides a general theoretical and philosophical discussion as it relates to history that is insightful and thought provoking.

I happened to come across this book, not by reading it in one of my history classes, but by looking at the footnotes and bibliographical information embedded in several scholarly articles I read where the mention of the book kept appearing. It is only now that I have had the chance to read this classic book. Bottom line, Bloch summarizes and observes historiography in 20/20 hindsight e.g., "history was a whole, that no period and no topic could be understood except in relation to other periods and topics" (ix). And ironically, Bloch writes from a pre-1945 perspective and did not complete the book as a result of his sudden passing during World War II; one can imagine what his perspective would have turned out to be if he had lived.

Indeed, Bloch was inclined to examine and research history from an interdisciplinary perspective. And although the subject of history has been described as a foreign land, it is a vast landscape with limitless boundaries. A bulk of Bloch's discussion is based on his training, which took him from Ancient to Modern European history. But had he completed this piece of work, as one reads the concluding pages, possibly he may have delved deeper towards the other side of the globe towards Eastern civilization as well as the industrialist Western civilization. Thus Bloch took a broad historical perspective and implemented it within his discipline as an Economic historian who specialized in Medieval history, but interestingly managed to teach the economic development of the United States during his last years of teaching.

After reading THE HISTORIAN'S CRAFT, aspiring historians or the curious will find that their work has only just begun. Readers will be confronted with the theoretical and philosophical questions, but will also see why history is a part of the humanities as well as a craft that can be hypothesized and shaped to a particular interpretation, be it definitive or revisionist. Bloch makes several anecdotal comments, but this is one that is timeless: "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" (43). This is one of the reasons why this book is recommended for supplemental or essential reading.
Written by the author during WWII, he was in the French resistance when France was occupied by the Nazis. He was summarily executed by them after getting captured, but copies of this manuscript survived and were published years later.

Written in near-prose, translated from French, it's not an easy read. For the critical mind however, this book proposes a system of logic that allows one to discern true from false. It's a beautiful, challenging read that anyone who has an interest in history or current events should pick up. Highly recommended.