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Posted by Seachranaiche on 10/21/2007
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."
History explained, briefly and eloquently
Posted by Edward Bosnar on 5/31/2001
Any book that ends with an ellipsis is frustrating, but this little gem by Marc Bloch, one of the 20th century's great historians before his tragic death at the hands of the Nazis in 1944, is a wonderful explanation of history as a social science and scholarly pursuit. Even in its unfinished form, "The Historian's Craft" provides useful working definitions of history as an academic subject, and some of the general guidelines that should be adhered to by historians. Rather than being a dry, jargon-filled text, the writing style here is very readable and engaging - thus, even though professional historians or history students would be the most interested in its content, it can be read and enjoyed by non-historians (for whom I believe Bloch intended it to a certain extent). This book should definitely top the reading list of any college student even thinking of majoring in history.