Bloch, Marc (1886–1944)
In 1929 Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch founded the Annales d’histoire économique et sociale (now called simply the Annales), a review that launched a new school of French historiography. Bloch and Febvre established this journal of sociological history as a ‘une arme de combat’ against the traditional political and diplomatic history as taught by Langlois and Seignobos at the Sorbonne. Bloch and Febvre, colleagues at the University of Strasbourg since 1920, formed an ideal intellectual partnership. Febvre was arguably the more imaginative of the two superb scholars. A pioneer in what we now call the history of ‘mentalities’ and popular culture, Febvre drew upon cultural anthropology in his work a full generation before the ‘Annales School’ made this discipline one of its closest allies (Le Problème de l’incroyance au XVIe siéle: la religion de Rabelais, 1942). Bloch was, above all, a historian of Western agrarian regimes, meticulously explored over a millenium. His work reflects a thorough grounding in all of the historian’s tools – archival, linguistic, geographic, archaeological and visual. Bloch was a medievalist by early training and his first work, Les Rois thaumaturges (1924) – a history of mentalities in its own right – gave little hint of his developing interest in economic history, a branch of history which had attracted little interest among French historians before Bloch was appointed to the Sorbonne in 1936. Bloch soon created an institute of economic and social history and planned a multiple-volume economic history of Europe, unfortunately never completed, except for his own Esquisse d’une histoire monétaire de l’Europe (1954).