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 current historical interpretation. Marxist historiography takes a different approach to understanding history. Spawned from Marxism’s class scale, Marxist’s historical interpretation is limited, as it works backwards from the outcome to the event.
However, this form of historical interpretation is recognized for its middle and lower class historical perspective. Karl Marx is well-known for his strong support for Communism. He professed that society goes through a cycle from anarchy to socialism, with capitalism and communism being on opposite ends of the spectrum. This approach led him to analyze and judge history on these characteristics. In Marxist historiography, every historical event was a result of the socioeconomic status in which the event took place.
Marxist historians are sometime ashamed of the Marxist title that they have due to Marx’s position on what we call the free world. However, Marxist historians do not hang on every idea of Marxism. A Marxist historian analyzes history with the understanding that historical events are occurrences that are determined by the working class’ level of production and the type of government in place at the time of the occurrence. In Marxist historiography, historians pay close attention to historical materialism, class struggle, government, and production.
These are the viewpoints that sum up this type of historical interpretation. The historiography of Marxism many times exclude political factors because it lacks the substantial and tangible evidence that other forms of historical interpretation embrace. Karl Marx both embraced and opposed the ideas of GWF Hegel, a German philosopher, who was well known for his conflict and contradictions theories. Yet, it was because of Hegel’s philosophy that Marxism thrives. Through Marxist historiography, historical events are at the mercy of a superstructure that has a predetermined path.
The work of Karl Marx and the Annales are still in practice today. Both schools of historical interpretation emphasize the social and economic impact on society as being the source for historical events. They examine the framework of society and compare the circumstances of many events to verify their theories and downplay prior trust in political narratives. As Stuart Clark states, in The Annales School: Critical Assessments, “At the centre of these issues and at the point of convergence of the Annales school and Marxist history is the theme of power. He concluded that their two distinct methods explain the plight of human events without discussing power and because of this missing link, the two schools will have more differences than similarities. Power is a common idea of both schools, however, they do not point out this fact. As there studies show, shifts of power is the driving force behind all historical events. The foundations of the perspectives of these two schools are astonishingly similar, but their differences lie in the details of their work.
The Annales eventually introduced their three tiered paradigm which was “structure at the base, conjecture in the center and the event at the top. This this was then divided again by geography, social, and the individual. ”(Hunt ,1986) In their use of this paradigm, they set themselves apart from Marxism because they incorporated geography and the individual in their studies, which was unique. Taking into consideration , the individual gives a personal take on the superstructure because from this vantage point the big picture can not be seen.
The Annales understood that the individual has personal motivations that are not apart of the collective opinion and that the structure affects each person differently. The evidence that the Annales consider when interpreting history is more detailed than the practices of Marxist historians. Marxist historians emphasize the super and sub-structures of society and remain focused on the outcome rather than the events. Marx stated in the Communist Manifesto that “the history of all past societies has been the history of all class struggles. ” This sentence sums up the motivation behind Marxist historiography.
Marx wanted inform the world that details did not matter as much as the inevitable social cycle. In The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), Marx states that history repeats itself, first as a tragedy and second, as a farce. ” The Marxist historian upholds this statement to be a slogan for their studies. As they uncover new ideas regarding the “system”, they are able to interpret historical events from the outside in. Schools of historical interpretations have the duty of setting their methods apart from others and coming up with different ways to analyze history.