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On History New edition Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226071510
ISBN-10: 0226071510
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About the Author

Fernand Braudel is a member of The French Academy.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; New edition edition (February 15, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226071510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226071510
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dianne Foster HALL OF FAME on July 12, 2003
ON HISTORY is the English translation of a book written by the French historian Fernand Braudel that first appeared in France in 1969. However he is probably best known for his comprehensive works on the Mediterranean and civilization and capitalism in the west in the 15th to 18th centuries.
This book is a historiography of sorts and composed of several essays/talks he gave about the need to rethink what we mean by history. He examines three concepts: 1) time; 2) the social sciences and their relation to history; and 3) history in the present age.
What do we mean by history? How does the historian decide where to focus (geography); when to focus (time); and what will be the subject of his focus (art, politics, etc. or all aspects of culture-civilization). Regarding the issue of time, Braudel suggests the social observer must see that the length of time that governs his focus is fundamental. Take the French Revolution for example. When did it begin? Some think seizing the Bastille was the critical moment. But why did the people of France decide to do this? What led to this moment. And when did the currents that led to the moment begin. And, more important perhaps from Braudel's perspective is what was going on in the meantime. How were ordinary people going about their lives?
In the end, the decision regarding time is subjective and this subjectivity is governed by ways of seeing-or social science perspectives. The sociologist is not concerned with the French Revolution or very much else that happened in the past. He might have read Comte and Marx as part of his graduate studies, but his current focus is on the here and now and what his survey results tell him.
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Fernand Braudel was/is largely ignored in the English-speaking world, especially the U.S., even though throughout Europe he is considered one of the 20th century's greatest historians. Therefore, it's unfortunate that the collection of articles in "On History" does not provide a more clear introduction to his thought. The articles contained in this book do provide a good view into some of Braudel's main life-long arguments about how historiography should be approached, such as his insistence on the consideration of the long time span (longue duree) or his calls for the unification of all social science methods in the study of history. This is particularly true of articles such as "History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Duree" or the excellent concluding article "The History of Civilizations: The Past Explains the Present." However, since most of the contributions here are often book reviews or polemical essays, the lack of context can often be confusing if, like me, you haven't read the books he is discussing or are unfamiliar with the works of the scholars with whom he is engaged in polemics (usually involving other French, and sometimes German scholars). Although such articles do contain important fragments of Braudel's views on the role of the social sciences and history as a science, they are nonetheless a bit dry and even uninteresting. Taken as a whole, then, "On History" is a somewhat unsatisfying book, even though it should still be required reading for students of history and other social sciences.
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Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) was a French historian and a leader of the Annales School (i.e., emphasizing social rather than political or diplomatic themes, and opposed to Marxist historiography). He wrote in the Preface to this 1969 book, "This collection did not originate with me. Two or three years ago, my Polish and then my Spanish friends decided to collect and translate the few articles and essays which I had published in the past twenty years on the nature of history. This volume is the final result."

He explained, "A useful understanding has to be arrived at ... that the way to study history is to view it as a long duration, as what I have called the 'longue durée'... which by itself can pose all the great problems of social structures, past and present." (Pg. viii) He suggests, "There is... a history slower that the history of civilizations, a history which almost stands still, a history of man in his intimate relationship to the earth which bears and feeds him; it is a dialogue which never stops repeating itself, which repeats itself in order to persist, which may and does change superficially, but which goes on, tenaciously, as though it were somhow beyond time's reach and ravages." (Pg. 12)

He asserts, "We have already stated our mistrust of a history occupied solely with events. To be fair, though, if there is a sin in being overconcerned with events, then history, though the most obvious culprit, is not the only guilty one. All the social sciences have shared in this error." (Pg. 35) He adds, "sociology and history made up one single intellectual adventure, not two different sides of the same cloth but the very stuff of that cloth itself." (Pg.
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