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The Historian's Craft: Reflections on the Nature and Uses of History and the Techniques and Methods of Those Who Write It.
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The Historian's Craft: Reflections on the Nature and Uses of History and the Techniques and Methods of Those Who Write It.

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3.99 of 5 stars 3.99  ·  rating details  ·  739 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Reflection on the nature and uses of History and the Techniques and Methods of those who write it.
Paperback, 224 pages
Published March 12th 1964 by Vintage (first published 1949)
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Valerie Shearer There is no simple answer . . but here are a few of my thoughts.
Marc Bloch's son had asked him, "Why History?"
Bloch answered his son with this book -…more
There is no simple answer . . but here are a few of my thoughts.
Marc Bloch's son had asked him, "Why History?"
Bloch answered his son with this book - he wrote sitting in a Nazi prison.
He wrote apologetically at time because he did not have his notes; he wrote from memory. History is memory - the "official" memory of a state or the private memories of individuals. We all have a history that is based on memory; the recordings of others; public monuments as places of memory. At the end of his life, deprived o this notes, Marc Bloch had only his own memory to write; at times he falters because he is unsure; he apologizes because he does not have his notes but he leaves this to us to understand why history matters.
Of all of the books on the theory of history, Marc Bloch's thin volume is simply the most poignant, stirring and inspiring. Soon after he began this book he was murdered by the Nazis who held him. A great loss for all of us. But at the same time, he gave us this beautiful book as a guide.
A basic book for any one who would like to study the art and craft of history. Since his death, many historians and anthropologists have addressed the question about history and memory; but for me, this book is the one that struck a chord.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,570)
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Kate
I turned to the back of the book to read the author's credentials, expecting the usual Oxbridge/Ivy League pedigree and litany of awards. Instead I was shocked to learn that Marc Bloch had been tortured and killed by Nazis. Here was a historian who joined the French Resistance rather than escape while he could. He penned this meditation on the nature of history as a Jew in occupied France, without the aid of an academic library.

Wow. It would be impossible not to respect Marc Bloch. Though this
...more
Nelson
Someone should write a book about people writing books away from their libraries. A passel of them owing to war, WWII in this case (and, I think, in the case of Auerbach's Mimesis); others to distance or remote location (Empson in China). There is something ballsy about saying 'here's my opus--I wrote it from memory since the Nazis blew up my books, the indigenous population cooked them in a stew, the sherpa dropped them in a crevasse...' Anyhoo. Bloch's book is a more elegant, less systematic v ...more
Marta
This is the best book on historiography that I've ever read. So good. I kept muttering "yes! yes!" to myself while reading.
Mark Bowles
* Introduction
* What is the use of history? What is the legitimacy of history?
* There is an entertainment value to history
* History can help to integrate fragments of knowledge into a unified whole, synthesis
* History, Men and Time: This chapter defines history
* This book accepts a broad interpretation of the word history--inquiry
* The object or history or inquiry is man
* History is further defined by calling it the study of men in time
* The present effects the knowledge of the past, as does the
...more
Dan Beaver
Second reading of this book; placed here because I really don't remember when I read it first.

This is a remarkable little book that should be read by anyone in the social sciences since the methodology transcends.
DoctorM
A 20th-c. classic, and a book that's been on my shelves since I was an undergraduate. A fine read by a fine scholar, and essential reading for anyone preparing to do History as a profession.
Essie
This book is a must for anyone serious about studying history. In spite of its age, it's still very relevant. This would have been a useful book to have read before blundering my way through my MA. It's a fairly easy to read, well articulated reflection on a lot of the major problems historians deal with on a regular basis. All of these topics - word choices, critical analysis, observation, causation, etc. - are ones that you're already expected to be fairly comfortable with but that are hard to ...more
Jessica
Some scholars possess the ability to be quietly brilliant, conveying ideas and information in an conversational but comprehensive style. Marc Bloch is the rare individual who translates that skill to his writing.

This is an excellent little text that addresses how historians approach their profession. It is written informally and covers the process of thinking and writing historically--everything from defining what the aims of history can be, to using and evaluating bias in evidence, encouraging
...more
icaro
L'ho letto, l'ho riletto, l'ho criticato, l'ho rivoltato come un calzino (notare l'usura della copertina scannerizzata).
Non si allontana mai dalla mia vista. E' come un vecchio nonno saggio che, con grande semplicità, al bisogno, mi ricorda il rigore di un mestiere difficile.
Ma non è un testo per addetti ai lavori. E' per chi ama interrogarsi sullo scorrere del tempo e sul posto che ciascuno di noi vi occupa. E' una delle migliori illustrazioni che io conosca di ciò che afferma anche il mitico F
...more
Rachael MacLean
An amazing book on the discipline of history and with a fascinating story behind it. Marc Bloch was a french resistance leader in Lyons as he was writing this book. As a result, it is not very thoroughly edited (especially the end) or even finished. Nonetheless, he makes a lot of points about trying to find a broader history with better use of non-written sources that I really agreed with. Great read for a historian.
James
If you are at all interested in learning how historians find out about the past, what problems they encounter and how they can and do make decision about what to include and what not, this is a must read. The author was killed by the Nazi in WWII as member of the French resistance, which left this book unfinished. However, it is still a monumental work. It's easy to read, but still contains huge amount of useful and pertinent information without the "academic rhetoric" that is so common among sc ...more
Jackie
Excerpt from my essay:

Bloch expands upon this departure from positivism, attributing the theory’s shortcoming to the human element in history. To determine the cause of a regime change, we cannot use the same formulaic precision as a mathematician would use to solve a proof. “Where calculation is impossible we are obliged to employ suggestion.” In rejecting a completely scientific approach to analyzing history, both Bloch and Carr inherently admit to a degree of uncertainty in any historical wor
...more
Yannicke
Although I did not find this book particularly inspiring, Bloch's classic is a must-read for any historian.
Charlie Byers
Good stuff. Reminds me a lot of C. Wright Mills' _The Sociological Imagination_.
Marc
Bloch defends in this booklet the these that history is a science, albeit with its own methodology and with the limited expectations that you may impose on all human sciences. A somewhat ambiguous position this is, in the then (mid-20th century) still furious discussion with positivism. The booklet contains many valuable insights, but the meandering style makes the reading (in French) not easy; in defense of Bloch: he wrote this in captivity in 1942-43, without access to a library. To reread.
Sinan Öner
I read Marc Bloch's book about history writing, I liked.
Kate

Marc Bloch takes the stand point that history should be like a science and tries to write out his methods as best he could. This method is heavy on the analysis of the primary documents and treating them a evidence.


Was nonchalant about areas that lack evidence. Believed that it is not worth putting thought into them and chalking them up as lost. But seem to be an avid believer that new evidence and types of evidence could be found, and should be used.



Worth Re-reading
Lisa
This was one of the principle texts in my "History of Historiography" class - the intro to my major in college. And for good reason - even where Bloch's ideas are outdated to the modern historian, you will find few in the craft who don't believe that exposure to his ideas is a bad idea. This was as crucial to my education as reading Aristotle or Hegel's take on history. I highly recommend it to anyone who wonders about the role or methods of a historian.
Victoria
I fundamentally disagree with Bloch's dated, empiricist approach to history. Much as he claimed to reject positivism as an historical force, he was still hugely influenced by empirical modernism, which no longer strikes me as a useful approach to history or historical writing. Probably interesting if a. you are still working through your own ideas on historical empiricism or b. have already embraced it, but not so much otherwise.
Kris
This was a very good book. I can see why it's still talked about, almost 70 years later. Thought provoking and insightful. All that glittery good review stuff. I think it's probably worth at least a couple more re-reads, coming back to it after reading similar kinds of works from other historians. I imagine it will hold up well. It's unfortunate that he was not able to complete it properly.
Susan
Why did I have to read "A Whig Interpretation of History" instead of this? This book is a wonderful, easy to understand explanation of why we study history. It warns of the pitfalls in every historian's path. The book does end abruptly. Bloch was active in the French Resistance and he was captured and executed before finishing the book. It was decided to publish anyway. I'm grateful.
Patricia Slattery
Good book for Historians to read.
Jonathan
Left unfinished by the author, who prepared it without access to libraries and who was executed by the Nazis in 1944, this book is more remarkable for what it is than for what it says. I'm not sure that the student today will find it especially useful methodologically; everything that stands out in my mind, his contemporary R.G. Collingwood said better. But it is inspiring.
Tessa
Marc Bloch is one of my new heroes. The incredible thing about this book is that he wrote about the role of the historian completely without the aid of sources--and it's soooo good. He had his teaching license and books taken away by the Nazis, and later he was killed by one of their firing squads outside of Lyon, France, for his involvement in the French Resistance.
Josh
An important but little known work. He wrote it while fighting in the Resistance and was killed by the Nazis before its publication. That he chose to write a book on historical methodology while facing certain death reminds me that the study of history is an essential, rather than trivial, occupation.
Faith Justice
This was written by a Jewish French historian while he fought in the French resistance during WWII. He was caught, tortured and executed in 1944 and didn't finish the manuscript. It's a mind-binding academic work on "What use is History?" Worth the effort.
Matt
An interesting and impassioned look at the role and job of the historian, written by a French Jew and resistance leader while he was imprisoned (and soon to be executed) by the NAZIs. Not an easy read at all, but definitely worth the price of admission.
Tom
Amazing book written as Marc Bloch was on the run from the Nazi's after joining the resistance. Bloch wrote the book for his son so that he could understand his father's calling. Bloch was caught, tortured and killed by the Nazi's.
Julio César
Muy lindo libro, sobre todo para los que no somos conocedores de la disciplina. Gran trabajo de relación entre el rol ético del ciudadano y el del científico. La biografía de Bloch es imprescindible para entender sus posiciones.
Su
Fue una buena experiencia leerlo en su totalidad para no quedarme solo con el fragmento de uno de los semestres de la carrera. Lo mejor: tengo ganas de leer más sobre el medioevo.
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5892
Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch (6 July 1886 in Lyon – 16 June 1944 in Saint-Didier-de-Formans) was a medieval historian, University Professor and French Army officer. Bloch was a founder of the Annales School, best known for his pioneering studies French Rural History and Feudal Society and his posthumously-published unfinished meditation on the writing of history, The Historian's Craft. He was captu ...more
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“Thenceforth they thought that, rationally concluded, doubt could become an instrument of knowledge.” 5 likes
“The very names we use to describe ancient ideas or vanished forms of social organization would be quite meaningless if we had not known living men.” 4 likes
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