Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Marc Bloch

I am thoroughly enjoying the introduction of The Historian's Craft by Marc Bloch.

"Let us guard," he writes, "against the stripping of our science [by which he, unfortunately, means history] of its share of poetry. Let us also beware of the inclination, which I have detected in some, to be ashamed of this poetic quality. It would be sheer folly to suppose that history, because it appeals strongly to the emotions, is less capable of satisfying the intellect."

"Christianity is a religion of historians. Other religious systems have been able to found their beliefs and their rites on a mythology nearly outside human time. For sacred books, the Christians have books of history, and their liturgies commemorate, together with episodes from the terrestrial life of a God, the annals of the church and the lives of the saints. Christianity is historical in another and, perhaps, even deeper sense. The destiny of humankind, placed between the Fall and the Judgment, appears to its eyes as a long adventure, of which each life, each individual pilgrimage, is in its turn a reflection. It is in time and, therefore, in history that the drama of Sin and Redemption, the central axis of all Christian thought, is unfolded."

Bloch cofounded the Annales school of history in France with Lucien Febvre, and he was instrumental in the social history revolution in professional history. I strongly dislike social history, so I imagine that my enjoyment of the book will alter as the book continues, but the introduction is great.

The book, by the way, is famously unfinished--unfinished because its author was tortured and executed by the Nazis for his work in the French Resistance.