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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.

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  1,993 ratings  ·  145 reviews
In this classic work, distinguished French economic historian, Marc Bloch, discusses the techniques of historical observation, analysis, and criticism, and the reestablishment of historical causation in assessing events. What is the value of history? What is the use of history? How do scholars attempt to unpack it and make connections in a responsible manner?

While the to
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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Aug 27, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Mark Bowles
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
* 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
Dec 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
the historian never escapes from time.
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historiography
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.
Sep 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: grad-school, history
First of all, props to Marc Bloch, who wrote this book essentially from memory while hiding from the Nazis who eventually captured, tortured and killed him. The intellectual capacity to write cogently and compellingly – and the focus to do so while fearing for his life as a Jewish freedom fighter in occupied France – is inspiring, if not intimidating.

The product is a work of remarkable clarity, given its subject, which is basically how history gets written. That's not the most captivating subjec
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
amazing book. i wasn't that sure when i started it, a lot of my colleagues did not like it but to be honest i found it eye-opening and... familiar? at the same time. it both showed me many of the mistakes i was making while also talking about obstacles i had too encountered in my researches (though in a very smaller size. i am definitely not a historian yet, i have just started).

it can be a little difficult to understand if you have never actually practiced "the historian's craft", especially wh
Sense of History
This book offers a reflection on some fundamental aspects of the historical profession, with valuable insights. But it is rather unsystematic, and clearly unfinished. Especially his assertion that sources, or traces as he calls them, are more useful as indirect witnesses, namely to extract things out of them there that were not intended by the witness, is a bit too extreme. This is true in the field of mental history (histoire des mentalités), but it neglects a very wide domain of the historical ...more
Max McDevitt
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Good work. The insights have helped me justify my work to myself.

Warning: when Bloch discusses probability and math in this book, he is commonly making false statements. He falsely asserts that probability theory concerned itself solely with equiprobable events. His example of the probability of two people born on the same day of the year is incorrect due to an oversight in counting. None of this detracts from his actual arguments and the points he is trying to make about contingencies and hist
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before going into college, I seriously considered becoming a historian. I ended up studying chemistry and getting accustomed with the rules of the scientific method. And in comparison, this book can be very well considered as a study on the method for history. Bloch is very aware of the possible bias of historians while examining information, and specially of acknowledging the ignorance of situations based on the available data. It is a perfect introduction to the understanding of history as a s ...more
Apr 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don't agree with everything Bloch argued, although much of it is compelling. Nonetheless, given the circumstances under which he wrote this reflection on his discipline, it is a remarkable book indeed. ...more
Vlad Golovach
An excellent book about the historian craft. Of lively interest for anyone who cares about his/her understanding of history.
This reflection on history, historians, historiography, and their relation to men, space, time, and the other social sciences is nothing short of both tragedy and brilliance. On one hand is the tragedy: Marc Bloch, a Jewish academic and French patriot who fought in World War I, could not finish the book, let alone give it greater drafts, due to also fighting in WW2 and being killed under Nazi reign. On the other hand is brilliance: the book is filled with Bloch's passions, ingenuity, and remembr ...more
Dan Beaver
Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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.
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. ...more
Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
This is the best book on historiography that I've ever read. So good. I kept muttering "yes! yes!" to myself while reading. ...more
Blessy Abraham
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Considering the extraordinary circumstances in which Marc Bloch wrote this book, you feel a lot of respect for Bloch's understanding of the science of history and his amazing recollection of historical facts in absence of access to proper sources. Therefore the book has to be approached as a sort of first draft that the author could never improve further with historical criticism. For many of us who are pursuing the discipline of history, most of what Bloch discusses seem very elementary in pres ...more
Dan Robb
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book. Translated from French, his turns of phrase are sometimes difficult to parse. But they're always beautiful. His analogies are frequent, inspired, and sometimes humorous. The historiography is original, and while sometimes outdated or abandoned, never unquestionably wrong. The book itself is a unique historical artifact, shaped dramatically by the conditions under which it was written. As a result of those conditions, it is very clearly unfinished. But definitely worth reading. It ...more
Tracie Sneed
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Here is my story about the book by Mr. Bloch. Found it foraging through a college library booksale. Bought it for .25 I should give it 5 stars...not so much for its contents, although it is remarkable given the conditions of which he wrote hiding and then imprisoned by the Third Reich in occupied France. A French-Jew, he begins the text in hiding...the book ends unfinished because he is assassinated. Considered to be one of the most renown French historians...this is an English translati ...more
Thomas Hunt
Feb 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Powerful work that I heard about while in Europe and tracked down while still on the road in Barcelona. Marc Bloch was a historian at a tough time for historians. He fought the Nazis and was killed by the Gestapo. Along the way he wrote this powerful primer on the basics of history, the value of primary sources, the inability for history to be an exact formula like the sciences, but above all the importance in telling the history even in the toughest of times. A good read and a good man. Marc Bl ...more
Sep 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Marc Bloch is the most epic hero for historians. He fought in WWI, was actively involved in the French resistance to the Nazis in WWII, and was finally executed by the French Regime working with the Nazis. This actually cut short the finishing of this book. The book is an excellent summary and defense of the historian’s craft. It is useful for the historian and student of history, but it is also accessible and useful for the general public, giving a defense for why and how we should study histor ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-research
In the face of Nazi rule and the collapse of his world, a historian asks “what is the use of history?” To many, the study of history seems out-of-touch with the urgency of the times. In answering this question, he writes eloquently on doing history well. He hints at history as a study of humanity that aids in the understanding of one another and opposes the distortion of propaganda. Sadly, he was executed before he could complete the book and tie these ideas together. Putting the fascinating bac ...more
Oliver Bateman
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
as careful and nuanced and ultimately hard to pin down as anything Bloch or the Annales school ever farted out...there's something incredibly admirable about the fact that this was written with almost zero access to any other sources, with bloch being killed prior to its true conclusion. here was one of the first great "if only we had more time, more information, more expertise, more nuanced analysis" folks - qualities I respect in Bloch that came into their fullest flowering with Braudel - and ...more
Feb 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Marc Bloch's "The Historian's Craft" is a necessary read for anyone even considering becoming a historian. It details in a thoughtful and comprehensive way the limitations and difficulties of bridging that gap between the dead and the living.

A truly masterful work by an experienced and equally amazing author, "The Historian's Craft" is at once educational and a reflection on historiography.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was ok
Meh. Bloch is a classic but honestly, he name drops so much.. one could almost be better served by reading the actual sources for the ideas that are illustrated. Many times I wish I had my own copy of Patrick Gardiner's "Theories of History" which includes a multitude of source material by a plethora of Western historiographers. This was an assignment so.. ...more
עדית (Edith)
Oct 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-own, history
Re-reading this fantastic introduction to discuss with my students :) It is inspiring that Bloch wrote this book in the middle of WWII when he had little/no access to libraries and was also busy with his side hustle as a freedom fighter... The book is sprinkled with insights that have special resonance coming from someone who was living history while writing it.
Jenny Grieve-laing
This little gem has been on my shelf since I discovered Bloch as a postgraduate. I wish I had read it as an undergrad in history as it has so much to offer the aspiring historian. A great legacy for Bloch, who was killed by the Nazis and it remains a wonderful guide for historians.
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
this was a really, i mean, obviously a foundational text and a lot of its observations still hold true today; i'm not sure if i would reread it but reading it was a valuable experience and it's probably a good book to have around ...more
Dec 28, 2019 rated it did not like it
I hated this book when I was first assigned to read it in graduate school, and I still hate it today. It is poorly written, meandering nonsense masquerading as deep thoughts. Don’t waste your time. Avoid at all costs.
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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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