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Annales School

Annales School An influential school of French historians, formed around the journal Annales: économies, sociétés, civilisations, which was founded by Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch at the University of Strasburg in 1929. The Annales School attempted to develop a ‘total history’ as a critique of existing historical methodology which offered merely a chronology of events. They turned attention away from political history towards a macro-historical analysis of societies over long time-periods. The Annales School, which included Maurice Halbwachs, André Siegfried, Fernand Braudel, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, and Georges Duby, had the following characteristics: it was interdisciplinary; it was concerned to study very long historical periods (la longue durée) and social structure; some members of the School employed quantitative methods; they examined the interaction between geographical environment, material culture, and society.

The work of the original members is represented, for example, by Bloch who attempted a total analysis of medieval society in his Feudal Society (1961). In the post-war period two works in particular have been very influential in the social sciences, namely Braudel's study of the Mediterranean (The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, 1949) and Le Roy Ladurie's analysis of fourteenth-century village life (Montaillou, 1975). The School has influenced historical sociology, especially the world-system theory of Immanuel Wallerstein (see, for example, his two-volume study of The Modern World-System, 1974 and 1980
). Critics have argued that the Annales School neglected political processes. Nor is it clear how the Annales approach was fundamentally different in scope and interdisciplinarity from, for example, historical materialism, the historical sociology of Max Weber in his The Agrarian Sociology of Ancient Civilisations (1924), or the figurational sociology of Norbert Elias in The Court Society (1969)—although it tends to be less abstract than all of these.

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