Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Historian's Craft

by Marc Bloch, 197 pages written in the format of early twentieth century historical methods.

Another famous piece that’s been on my shelf since undergrad, a book by an historian on the ways and purposes of history. Fairly general in its outlook and carries a lot of assumptions that are rather dated and lacking at present, particularly in the approach towards ancient sources. Nevertheless it has a pretty well grounded application of some basic questions on approaching the past, objectivity and narratives, and it’s not without value.

The layout of the book is pretty good and the brose is well serviced. It’s short enough to not to weary, and keeps a fairly decent range of questions in effect for approaching the central field of analyzing the past. The slim length and broad position of inquiry necessitate a somewhat shallow book on final conlusions, but Bloch is aware enough of his book’s position as a question-posing introductory volume rather than any definitive treatise to make this not too much of a problem.

The struggle in here to catalog different elements of the historical method and cataloguing a fuller approach to truth gains a poignancy from knowing that Marc Bloch worked in the Resistance against the Germans in the Second World War, and that he died in this process. In light of that it’s nice that he still offers some ideas of enduring value, and that for all the dusty elements and a few cracks in reasoning his book remains worth reading.

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