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The Historian's Craft (Author) 1,101 copies, 16 reviews
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Marc Bloch was born to a French Jewish family in Lyon, the son of Gustave Bloch, professor of ancient history. He was raised in Paris and educated at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then graduated from the École Normale Supérieure. He acquired an exceptional proficiency in languages, literature, and the social and natural sciences along with a zest for critical inquiry and de-mythologization. He was deeply influenced by the manipulation of popular hysteria and anti-Semitism during the Dreyfus Affair. Bloch served bravely with the French Army in World War I, rising from sergeant to captain, winning four decorations including the Croix de Guerre, and was made Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur. After the war, he was awarded his doctorate and became a lecturer at the University of Strasbourg, where he taught from 1919 to 1936. During this time, he published two groundbreaking works of political and social history, Les Rois Thaumaturges: étude sur le caractère surnaturel attribué à la puissance royale, particulièrement en France et en Angleterre (The Royal Touch: Sacred Monarchy and Miracles in England and France, 1924) and Les Caractères originaux de l’histoire rurale française (French Rural History: An Essay on Its Basic Characteristics, 1931). In 1929, Bloch and his friend and colleague Lucien Febvre founded the Annales d’histoire économique et sociale, a journal dedicated to overcoming disciplinary and national/ideological boundaries and promoting a more human, accessible history. After a modest start in the tumultuous 1930s, the Annales achieved prominence and gave its name to an influential international school of historical research. In 1936, at the height of his career, Bloch was elected to the Sorbonne, where, on the eve of World War II, he completed his masterful two-volume synthesis, La Société féodale (Feudal Society, 1939). At age 53, and the father of six children, he then re-enlisted in the army and witnessed the fall of France in 1940 at the front lines. He wrote a searing critique of this military, political, and human debacle, L’Étrange Défaite: témoignage écrit en 1940 (Strange Defeat: A Statement of Evidence Written in 1940), which was published posthumously in 1946. After Nazi Germany occupied France, Bloch’s extraordinary services gained him an exemption from the Vichy government’s anti-Semitic legislation, which enabled him to teach for two more years in southern France and write his personal and scholarly creed, Apologie pour l’histoire; ou, métier d’historien (The Historian’s Craft), published posthumously in 1949. In 1943, he joined the French Resistance and became a leader as well as editor of the clandestine publication Cahiers politiques. Captured by the Vichy police in March 1944, he was tortured by the Gestapo and shot by a German firing squad. Bloch’s example inspired numerous young people to become scholar-activists, combining research and teaching with a commitment to the defense of intellectual and human freedom. J.H. Plumb called him the greatest historian of modern times.
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