Fernand Braudel

Fernand Braudel (August 24 1902–November 27 1985), was the foremost French historian of the postwar era, and a leader of the Annales School. He organized his scholarship around three great projects, each worth several decades of intense study: "The Mediterranean" (1923-49, then 1949-66), "Civilization and Capitalism" (1955-79), and the unfinished, "Identity of France" (1970-85). His reputation stems in part from his writings, but even more from his success in making the "Annales" School the most important engine of historical research in France and much of the world after 1950. As the dominant leader of the Annales School of historiography in the 1950s and 1960s, he exerted enormous influence on historical writing in France and other countries.

Braudel has been considered one of the greatest of those modern historians who have emphasised the role of large scale socio-economic factors in the making and telling of history [i.e. Fernand Braudel, "The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II" (Berkely: University of California Press, 1996)] . He can also be considered as one of the precursors of World Systems Theory.


Braudel was born in Luméville-en-Ornois, in the département of the Meuse, France, where he also lived with his paternal grandmother for a long time. He studied at the elite Paris Institute of Political Studies (better known as Sciences Po). His father, who was a natural mathematician, aided him in his studies. Braudel also studied a good deal of Latin and a little Greek. He loved history and wrote poetry. Braudel wanted to be a doctor, but his father opposed this idea. At the age of 20, he became an agrégé in history. While teaching at a secondary school in Algeria, 1923-32, he became fascinated by the Mediterranean Sea and everything about it. From 1932 to 1935 he taught in the Paris lycées of Pasteur, Condorcet, and Henry IV.He met Lucien Febvre, the co-founder of the influential "Annales" journal, who was to have a great influence on his work.


By 1900 the French solidified their cultural dominance in Brazil through the establishment of the Brazilian Academy of Fine Arts. Brazil still lacked a university, however, and in 1934 Francophile Julio de Mesquita Filho invited anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss and Braudel to help establish one. The result was formation of the new the University of São Paulo. Braudel later said that the time in Brazil was the "greatest period of his life." [ Thomas E. Skidmore, "Levi-Strauss, Braudel and Brazil: a Case of Mutual Influence." "Bulletin of Latin American Research" 2003 22(3): 340-349. Issn: 0261-3050 Fulltext: Ebsco] He returned to Paris in 1937 and in 1939, he joined the army but was captured in 1940 and became a prisoner of war in a camp near Lübeck in Germany, where, working from memory, he put together his great work "La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen a l'époque de Philippe II" ("The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II"). Part of his motivation for writing the book, he said, was that, as a "Northerner," he had come to love the Mediterranean. After the war, he worked with Febvre in a new college, founded separately from the Sorbonne, dedicated to social and economic history.


In 1962, he wrote "A History of Civilizations" to be the basis for a history course, but its rejection of the traditional event-based narrative was too radical for the French ministry of education, which rejected it [Richard Mayne, "Translator's Introduction" in Fernand Braudel, "A History of Civilization," (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), pp. xxvi-xxvii.]

Besides "La Méditerranée", his most famous work is the three-volume "Civilisation Matérielle, Economie et Capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe" ("Capitalism and Material Life, 1400-1800"), which first appeared in 1979. It is a broad-scaled history of the pre-industrial modern world, presented in the minute detail demanded by the school called cliometrics focusing on how people made economies work. Like all his major works, it mixes traditional economic material with much description of the social impact of economic events on everyday life, and gives much attention to food, fashion, social customs and similar areas.

Braudel claims that there are long-term cycles in the capitalist economy which developed in Europe in the 12th century. Cities and later nation-states follow each other subsequently as centers of these cycles. Venice and Genoa in 13th to 15th century (1250–1510), Antwerp in 16th (1500–1569), Amsterdam in 16th to 18th (1570–1733), London and England in 18th and 19th (1733–1896). He argued that "structures" — a word he uses to mean many kinds of organized behaviours, attitudes, and conventions, as well as literal structures and infrastructures — that were built up in Europe during the Middle Ages contributed to or were perhaps responsible for the success of European-based cultures up to the present day. Much of this he appears to attribute to the long-lived independence of city-states, which although later subjected by geographic states, were not always completely suppressed -- probably for reasons of usefulness.

One feature of Braudel's work is his evident compassion for the suffering of marginal people. [Fernand Braudel, "A History of Civilizations", translated by Richard Mayne (New York: Penguin Books, 1993).] He points out the obvious: that most surviving historical sources come from the wealthy (or at least literate) classes — those who are either rich or aspire to be. He gives importance to the apparently ephemeral lives of slaves, serfs, and peasants, as well as to the urban poor, and shows their contributions to the wealth and power of their respective masters and societies. Indeed, he appears to think that these people form the real material of civilization. His work is often illustrated with contemporary depictions of daily life, rarely with pictures of noblemen or kings.

La Méditerranée

Braudel had already started archival research on his doctorate on the Mediterranean when he fell under the influence of the Annales School around 1938 when he entered the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes as an instructor in history. He worked with Lucien Febvre, who would later read the early versions of Braudel's magnum opus and provide him with editorial advice. At the outbreak of war in 1939, he was called up and subsequently taken prisoner by the Germans, 1940-45. While a prisoner of war Braudel was without access to his books or notes; he relied on his prodigious memory to contemplate and draft his work.

In 1949 he was elected to the Collège de France upon Lucien Febvre’s retirement. In 1947, with Febvre and Charles Morazé, Braudel founded the famous Sixième Section for ‘Economic and social sciences’ at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. He retired in 1968, and in 1983 was elected to the Académie Française.

La Méditerranée

His first book, "La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen à l'Epoque de Philippe II" (1949) ("The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II") was his most influential. The Mediterranean legacy in Europe included cultivated crops consumption habits, monotheistic religion, and mental and cultural tools such as the language, laws, and pretentions of the state, as well as urbanism, the prestige of the written word, and the instruments of chronology. The culture ceased to be dominant in the 15th or 16th century, but the new Atlantic culture embodied much of it and extended its elements to Siberia, the Americas, and the Antipodes.

For Braudel there is no single Mediterranean sea. There are many seas--indeed a "vast, complex expanse" in which men operate. Life is conducted on the Mediterranean: people travel, fish, fight wars, and drown in the many seas. Again, the sea gives on to plains and islands. Life on the plains is diverse and complex; the poorer south is affected by religious diversity (Catholicism and Islam), as well as by intrusions - both cultural and economic - from the wealthier north. In other words the Mediterranean cannot be understood independently from what is exterior to it. Any rigid adherence to boundaries is a way of falsifying the situation.

The first level of time, geographical time, is that of the environment, with its slow, almost imperceptible change, its repetition and cycles. Change may be slow, but it is irresistible. The second level of time comprises social and cultural history, with social groupings, empires and civilizations. Change at this level is much more rapid than that of the environment; he looks at two or three centuries in order to spot a particular pattern, such as the rise and fall of various aristocracies. The third level of time is that of events (histoire événmentielle). This is the history of individuals with names. This, for Braudel, is the time of surfaces and deceptive effects. It is the time of the "courte durée" proper and it is exemplified by Part 3 of "The Mediterranean" which treats of "events, politics and people."

Braudel's Mediterranean is a complex of seas but just as important it is also the desert and the mountains. The desert creates a nomadic form of social organization where the whole community moves; mountain life is sedentary. Transhumance is also a factor--that is, the movement from the mountain to the plain, or vice versa in a given season.

Braudel's vast panoramic view used insights from other social sciences, employed the concept of the longue durée, and downplayed the importance of specific events. It was widely admired, but most historians did not try to replicate it and instead focused on their specialized monographs. The book dramatically raised the worldwide profile of the "Annales School."

Annales School

Braudel became the leader of the second generation of "Annales" historians after 1945. He obtained funding from the Rockefeller Foundation in New York and founded the 6th Section of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, which was devoted to the study of history and the social sciences. [ He received an additional $1 million from the Ford Foundation in 1960. Francis X. Sutton, "The Ford Foundation's Transatlantic Role and Purposes, 1951-81." "Review (Fernand Braudel Center)" 2001 24(1): 77-104. Issn: 0147-9032 ] In 1962 he and Gaston Berger used Ford Foundation money and government funds to create a new independent foundation, the Fondation Maison des sciences de l'homme (FMSH), which Braudel directed from 1970 until his death. It was housed in the building called "Maison des Sciences de l'Homme". FMSH stressed international networking to spread the "Annales" gospel across Europe and the world. After a sort of palace coup in 1968 he had to share power, and in 1972 he gave up all editorial responsibility on the journal (although his name remained on the masthead).


Prior to the "Annales" approach, says Braudel, the writing of history was focused on the courte durée (short span), or on what is known as histoire événmentielle (a history of events). Political and diplomatic history has been the prime example of histoire événmentielle, which he rejected as too trivial.

His followers admired his use of the longue durée approach to stress slow, and often imperceptible effects of space, climate and technology on the actions of human beings in the past. [ See Wallerstein, "Time and Duration" (1997)] The "Annales" historians, after living through two world wars and incedible political upheavals in France, were deeply uncomfortable with the notion of multiple ruptures and discontinuities created history. They preferred to stress inertia and the longue durée. That is, the continuities of the deepest structures were central to history, beside which upheavals in institutions or the superstructure of social life were of little significance, for history lies beyond the reach of conscious actors, especially the will of revolutionaries. They rejected the Marxist idea that history should be used as a tool to foment and foster revolutions. [ Olivia Harris, "Braudel: Historical Time and the Horror of Discontinuity." "History Workshop Journal" (2004) (57): 161-174. Issn: 1363-3554 Fulltext: OUP ] A proponent of historical materialism, Braudel rejected Marxist materialism, stressing the equal importance of infrastructure and superstructure, both of which reflected enduring social, economic, and cultural realities. Braudel's structures, including both mental and environmental frameworks, actually determine the "long-term" course of events in constraining actions on, and by, humans over a duration which escapes the consciousness of the actors involved.


Braudel in his three-volume "Civilisation Matérielle, Economie, et Capitalisme" (1979) ("Capitalism and Material Life" ), a sweeping study of preindustrial capitalism the world over, returned to economic themes that interested the "Annales" historians of the 1930s but had otherwise been neglected by the school. There is little original research but instead a synthesis of a great deal of work by many scholars, some of it outdated. Braudel prefers descriptive detail rather than theoretical constructs, avoid all economic theory, and uses statistical data as illustration rather than an analytic tool.

Braudel argued that capitalists have typically been monopolists, not, as is usually assumed, entrepreneurs operating in competitive markets. He argued that capitalists did not specialize and did not use free markets. He thus diverged from both liberal (Adam Smith) and Marxian interpretations. In Braudel's view, under capitalism, the state has served as a guarantor of monopolists rather than as the protector of competition usually portrayed. He said capitalists have had power and cunning on their side, and they have been arrayed against the majority of the population. Few historians have followed up this lead. [Immanuel Wallerstein, "Braudel on Capitalism, or Everything Upside Down." "Journal of Modern History" 1991 63(2): 354-361. Issn: 0022-2801 Fulltext: [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-2801%28199106%2963%3A2%3C354%3ABOCOEU%3E2.0.CO%3B2-2 in Jstor] ]


After he had published "la Méditerannée," Braudel went into the Bibliothèque Nationale and applied for a library card. He was handed a short form to fill out. Under "Nom," he wrote "BRAUDEL, Fernand"; under "Métier," he wrote "historien." He was turned down. He then wrote "The Structures of Ordinary Life" which delineates how all social structures from table manners to petty bureaucracies place limitations on one's possible actions.Fact|date=December 2007
SUNY Binghamton in New York has a Fernand Braudel Center, and there is an Instituto Fernand Braudel de Economia Mundial in São Paulo, Brazil.


*"La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen a l'époque de Philippe II" 3 vols. (Originally appeared in 1949; revised several times): * "La part du milieu" (vol. 1) ISBN 2-253-06168-9: * "Destins collectifs et mouvements d'ensemble" (vol. 2) ISBN 2-253-06169-7: * "Les événements, la politique et les hommes" (vol. 3) ISBN 2-253-06170-0
*"Ecrits sur l'Histoire" (1969) ISBN 2-08-081023-5
*"The Mediterranean in the Ancient World"
*"Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe siècle": * "Les structures du quotidien" (vol. 1, 1967) ISBN 2-253-06455-6: * "Les jeux de l'échange" (vol. 2, 1979) ISBN 2-253-06456-4: * "Le temps du monde" (vol. 3, 1979) ISBN 2-253-06457-2
*"Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Centuries", 3 vols. (1979) English translation by Siân Reynolds: * "The Structures of Everyday Life" (vol.1) ISBN 0-06-014845-2: * "The Wheels of Commerce" (vol. 2) ISBN 0-06-015091-2: * "The Perspective of the World (vol. 3"') ISBN 0-06-015317-2
*"On History" (1980), English translation of "Ecrits sur l'Histoire" by Siân Reynolds
*"La Dynamique du Capitalisme" (1985) ISBN 2-08-081192-4
*"The Identity of France" (1986)
*"Ecrits sur l'Histoire II" (1990) ISBN 2-08-081304-8
*"Out of Italy, 1450–1650" (1991)
*"A History of Civilizations" (1995)
*"Les mémoires de la Méditerranée" (1998)
*"Personal Testimony" Journal of Modern History, vol. 44, no. 4. (December 1972)


* Aurell, Jaume. "Autobiographical Texts as Historiographical Sources: Rereading Fernand Braudel and Annie Kriegel." "Biography" 2006 29(3): 425-445. Issn: 0162-4962 Fulltext: Project Muse
* Burke, Peter. "The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School 1929-89," (1990), [http://www.amazon.com/French-Historical-Revolution-Contemporary-Thinkers/dp/0804718369/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197752813&sr=8-1 excerpt and text search]
* Carrard, Philippe. "Figuring France: The Numbers and Tropes of Fernand Braudel," "Diacritics", Vol. 18, No. 3 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 2-19 [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0300-7162(198823)18%3A3%3C2%3AFFTNAT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-6 in JSTOR]
* Carrard, Philippe. "Poetics of the New History: French Historical Discourse from Braudel to Chartier," (1992)
*Pierre Daix, "Braudel", (Paris: Flammarion, 1995)
* Dosse, Francois. "New History in France: The Triumph of the Annales," (1994, first French edition, 1987) [http://www.amazon.com/New-History-France-TRIUMPH-ANNALES/dp/0252063732/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1197752869&sr=8-1 excerpt and text search]
*Giuliana Gemelli, "Fernand Braudel" (Paris: Odile Jacob, 1995)
* Harris, Olivia. "Braudel: Historical Time and the Horror of Discontinuity." "History Workshop Journal" 2004 (57): 161-174. Issn: 1363-3554 Fulltext: OUP
* Hexter, J. H. "Fernand Braudel and the Monde Braudellien," "Journal of Modern History," 1972, vol. 44, pp. 480-539 [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-2801(197212)44%3A4%3C480%3AFBATMB%3E2.0.CO%3B2-6 in JSTOR]
* Hufton, Olwen. "Fernand Braudel", "Past and Present," No. 112. (Aug., 1986), pp. 208–213. [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0031-2746(198608)112%3C208%3AFB%3E2.0.CO%3B2-7 in JSTOR]
* Hunt, Lynn. "French History in the Last Twenty Years: the Rise and Fall of the Annales Paradigm." "Journal of Contemporary History" 1986 21(2): 209-224. Issn: 0022-0094 Fulltext: [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-0094%28198604%2921%3A2%3C209%3AFHITLT%3E2.0.CO%3B2-W in Jstor]
* Kaplan, Steven Laurence. "Long-Run Lamentations: Braudel on France," "The Journal of Modern History," Vol. 63, No. 2, A Special Issue on Modern France. (Jun., 1991), pp. 341-353. [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-2801%28199106%2963%3A2%3C341%3ALLBOF%3E2.0.CO%3B2-F in JSTOR]
* Kinser, Samuel. "Annaliste Paradigm? The Geo-historical Structuralism of Fernand Braudel." "American Historical Review" 1981 86(1): 63-105. Issn: 0002-8762 Fulltext: [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-8762%28198102%2986%3A1%3C63%3AAPTGSO%3E2.0.CO%3B2-3 in Jstor]
* Lai, Cheng-chung. "Braudel's Concepts and Methodology Reconsidered." "European Legacy" 2000 5(1): 65-86. Issn: 1084-8770 Fulltext: Ebsco
* Moon, David. "Fernand Braudel and the Annales School" [http://www.scribd.com/doc/185264/Fernand-Braudel-and-the-Annales-School online edition]
* Santamaria, Ulysses, and Bailey, Anne M. "A Note on Braudel's Structure as Duration." "History and Theory" 1984 23(1): 78-83. Issn: 0018-2656 Fulltext: [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0018-2656%28198402%2923%3A1%3C78%3AANOBSA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-R in Jstor] ]
* Stoianovich, Traian. "French Historical Method: The Annales Paradigm," (1976)
* Wallerstein, Immanuel. "Time and Duration: The Unexcluded Middle" (1997) [http://www.binghamton.edu/fbc/iwtimdu.htm online version]


External links

* [http://www.africahistory.net/braudel.htm Braudel, Colonialism and the Rise of the West]
* [http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/history/historian/Fernand_Braudel.html Fernand Braudel:Mediterranean studies:Annales school]
* [http://fbc.binghamton.edu/ Fernand Braudel Center]
* [http://www.braudel.org.br/ Instituto Fernand Braudel de Economia Mundial]
* [http://www.strath.ac.uk/Departments/History/s_adams/annales.htm Fernand Braudel and the Annales School by Dr David Moon]
* [http://www.indianoceanworldcentre.com/mission.brudel.html Annales School, Fernand Braudel bio]

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