The Annales School 1929

To Our Readers
(Presentation of the Annales)
by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre

Source: Annales d’histoire économique et sociale, vol 1, No. 1;
Translated: for by Mitchell Abidor;
CopyLeft: Creative Commons (Attribute & ShareAlike) 2009.

To our readers

Thanks to the broadness of vision of a major publisher; thanks to the assistance of French and foreign collaborators, whose eagerness was a joy and encouragement for us, our Annales, long in the planning, can appear today and strive to be useful. We thank the true authors of this.

Yet another periodical and, what is more, a periodical on economic and social history? To be sure, we know that our revue doesn’t arrive first in French, European or world production. Yet we believe that, alongside its glorious elders, it will have its place in the sun. It is inspired by their example, but it bears a spirit that is uniquely its own.

Both of us historians, having carried out more or less the same experiments and drawn from them the same conclusions, for a long time have been struck by the ills engendered by a divorce that has become traditional. While historians employ their good old tried and true methods to documents of the past, an ever larger number of men dedicate their activity- sometimes feverishly – to the study of contemporary societies and economies; two classes of workers meant to understand each other and who ordinarily rub shoulders without knowing each other. This isn’t all. Among the historians themselves, as among investigators occupied with the present, there are still many other barriers: historians of antiquity, medievalists, and modernists; researchers dedicated to the description of so-called civilized societies (to use an old term whose meaning changes every day) or attracted on the contrary to those that we must, lacking a better term, qualify either as “primitive” or as exotic... Of course, nothing would be better if each, practicing a legitimate specialization, laboriously cultivating his own garden, nevertheless strove to follow the work of his neighbor. But the walls are so high that they often block the view. And yet, how many precious suggestions concerning method and the interpretation of facts, what gains for culture, what progress in intuitions would be born among these diverse groups from more frequent intellectual exchanges. This is the price of the future of economic history, as well as the correct understanding of the facts that will tomorrow be history.

It is our intention to rise up against these fearsome schisms. Not through articles on methodology or theoretical dissertations. Rather by examples and by acts. Gathered here, workers of different origins and specializations, though animated by the same spirit of precise impartiality, will expose the results of their research on subjects of their competence and choice. It seems impossible to us that informed intelligences will not rapidly draw the necessary lessons from such contact. Our undertaking is an act of faith in the exemplary virtue of honest, conscientious, and solidly armed labor.