24 August 1902|
|Died||27 November 1985
|Influenced by||Gustav von Schmoller, Lucien Febvre, Marc Bloch, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Ernest Labrousse, Émile Durkheim|
|Influenced||Immanuel Wallerstein, Ruggiero Romano, Carlo M. Cipolla, José Luis Romero, Tulio Halperín Donghi, Ravi Arvind Palat, Pierre Nora, Jacques Le Goff, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Georges Duby, Michel Foucault|
Fernand Braudel (French: [bʁodɛl]; 24 August 1902 – 27 November 1985) was a French historian and a leader of the Annales School. His scholarship focused on three main projects, each representing 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 the modern historians who have emphasized the role of large-scale socioeconomic factors in the making and writing of history. He can also be considered as one of the precursors of world-systems theory.
Braudel was born in Luméville-en-Ornois (as of 1943, merged with and part of Gondrecourt-le-Château), in the département of the Meuse, France, where he also lived with his paternal grandmother for a long time. 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 Henri-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 influence in Brazil through the establishment of the Brazilian Academy of Fine Arts. São Paulo 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 University of São Paulo. Braudel later said that the time in Brazil was the "greatest period of his life."
Braudel returned to Paris in 1937. He had started archival research on his doctorate on the Mediterranean when he fell under the influence of the Annales School around 1938. Around this time he entered the École Pratique des Hautes Études 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 in 1940 by the Germans. While a prisoner of war in a camp near Lübeck in Germany, Braudel drafted 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), without access to his books or notes but relying on his prodigious memory and a local library.
Braudel became the leader of the second generation of Annales historians after 1945. In 1947, with Febvre and Charles Morazé, Braudel obtained funding from the Rockefeller Foundation in New York founded the famous Sixième Section for "Economic and social sciences" at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes. In 1962 he and Gaston Berger used the Ford Foundation grant 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 focused its activities on international networking in order to disseminate the Annales approach to 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.
In 1962, he wrote A History of Civilizations as 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 in turn rejected it.
A feature of Braudel's work was his compassion for the suffering of marginal people. He articulated that most surviving historical sources come from the literate wealthy classes. He emphasized the importance of the ephemeral lives of slaves, serfs, peasants, and the urban poor, demonstrating their contributions to the wealth and power of their respective masters and societies. Indeed, he appeared to think that these people form the real material of civilization. His work was often illustrated with contemporary depictions of daily life, rarely with pictures of noblemen or kings.
In 1949 Braudel was elected to the Collège de France upon Febvre’s retirement. He co-founded the academic journal Revue économique in 1950. He retired in 1968. In 1983, he was elected to the Académie française.
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 (particularly olives and grapes) and its associated consumption habits; monotheistic religion; urbanism; the language, laws, and pretensions of the state as mental and cultural tools; the prestige of the written word; and the instruments of chronology. The Mediterranean culture ceased to be dominant in the 15th or 16th century, but the new Atlantic culture absorbed much of it and transmitted its elements to Siberia, the Americas, and Australasia.
For Braudel there is no single Mediterranean Sea. There are many seas—indeed a "vast, complex expanse" within which men operate. Life is conducted on the Mediterranean: people travel, fish, fight wars, and drown in its various contexts. And the sea articulates with the 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 falsifies the situation.
The first level of time, geographical time, is that of the environment, with its slow, almost imperceptible change, its repetition and cycles. Such change may be slow, but it is irresistible. The second level of time comprises long-term social, economic, and cultural history, where Braudel discusses the Mediterranean economy, social groupings, empires and civilizations. Change at this level is much more rapid than that of the environment; Braudel 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 événementielle). 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 the focus of Part 3 of The Mediterranean which treats of "events, politics and people."
Braudel's Mediterranean is centered on the sea, 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 — that is, the movement from the mountain to the plain, or vice versa in a given season — is also a persistent part of Mediterranean existence.
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 firmly launched the study of the Mediterranean and dramatically raised the worldwide profile of the Annales School.
After La Méditerranée, Braudel's most famous work is the three-volume Civilisation Matérielle, Économie et Capitalisme, XVe-XVIIIe (Capitalism and Material Life, 1400-1800), which first appeared in 1979. [Note: Braudel published the first volume of Civilization and Capitalism in 1967, and it was translated as Capitalism and Material Life, 1400–1800 in 1973.] The entire three-volume work is a broad-scale history of the preindustrial 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 mixed traditional economic material with a thick description of the social impact of economic events on various facets of everyday life such as food, fashion, and social customs. There was little original research in the survey; rather, it was a synthesis of a large body of work by many scholars, some of it outdated. Braudel compiled descriptive detail rather than building theoretical constructs. He avoided all economic theory, and used statistical data as an illustrative rather than an analytic tool.
Braudel claimed that there are long-term cycles in the capitalist economy which developed in Europe in the 12th century. Particular cities, and later nation-states, follow each other sequentially as centers of these cycles: Venice and Genoa in 13th through 15th centuries (1250–1510), Antwerp in 16th century (1500–1569), Amsterdam in 16th through 18th centuries (1570–1733), and London (and England) in 18th and 19th centuries (1733–1896). He used the word "structures" to denote a variety of organized behaviours, attitudes, and conventions, as well as literal structures and infrastructures. He argued that structures that were built up in Europe during the Middle Ages contributed to the successes of present-day European-based cultures. He attributed much of this to the long-standing independence of city-states, which, though later subjugated by larger geographic states, were not always completely suppressed—probably for reasons of utility.
Braudel argued that capitalists have typically been monopolists and 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 asserted that capitalists have had power and cunning on their side as they have arrayed themselves against the majority of the population.
According to Braudel, prior to the Annales approach, the writing of history was focused on the courte durée (short span), or on histoire événementielle (a history of events). Political and diplomatic history is a prime example of histoire événementielle, which he criticized as too limited.
His followers admired his use of the longue durée approach to stress the slow and often imperceptible effects of space, climate and technology on the actions of human beings in the past. The Annales historians, after living through two world wars and massive political upheavals in France, were very uncomfortable with the notion that multiple ruptures and discontinuities created history. They preferred to stress inertia and the longue durée, arguing that the continuities in the deepest structures of society were central to history. Upheavals in institutions or the superstructure of social life were of little significance, for history, they argued, 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. 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, both mental and environmental, determine the long-term course of events by constraining actions on, and by, humans over a duration long enough that they are beyond the consciousness of the actors involved.
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