Marc Bloch

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Marc Bloch bigraphy, stories - French historian

Marc Bloch : biography

6 July 1886 – 16 June 1944

Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch ( 6 July 1886 – 16 June 1944) was a French historian who cofounded the highly influential Annales School of French social history. Bloch was a quintessential modernist. An assimilated Alsatian Jew from an academic family in Paris, he was deeply affected in his youth by the Dreyfus Affair. He studied at the elite École Normale Supérieure; in 1908-9 he studied at Berlin and Leipzig. He fought in the trenches of the Western Front for four years. In 1919 he became Lecturer in Medieval history at Strasbourg University, after the German professors were all expelled; he was called to the Sorbonne in Paris in 1936 as professor of economic history. He is 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 captured and shot by the Gestapo during the German occupation of France for his work in the French Resistance.

Second World War

In 1939 France declared war on Germany after its invasion and occupation of Poland. As France mobilized its troops, Marc Bloch left his position at the Sorbonne and took up his reserve status as a captain in the French Army at the age of 52. He was encouraged at the time by colleagues both in France and abroad to leave the country. He said it was his personal obligation to stand for the moral imperative.

"I was born in France, I have drunk the waters of her culture. I have made her past my own. I breathe freely only in her climate, and I have done my best, with others, to defend her interests."Bloch, The Strange Defeat

His memoir of the first days of World War II, Strange Defeat, written in 1940 but not published until 1946, blamed the French military establishment, along with her social and political culture, for the sudden total military defeat and helped after the war to neutralize the traumatic memory of France’s failure and to build a new French identity.Donald Reid, "Narratives of Resistance in Marc Bloch’s L’etrange Defaite." Modern and Contemporary France 2003 11(4): 443-452. Issn: 0963-9489 Fulltext: Ebsco

Bloch joined the French Resistance in late 1942, driven by ardent patriotism, identification with his Jewish roots and a conception of France as the champion of liberty. His code name was "Narbonne". He was eventually captured by Vichy police and turned over to the Gestapo, which tortured and shot him in June 1944, just as the Nazis realized that the Allies were about to reconquer France; Bloch became a national martyr after the Allied liberation.Forward, by Bryce Lyon, of French Rural History, X. Bloch spent his final days in prison writing his essay "The Historian’s Craft," which was unfinished at the time of his execution.

References and Bibliography

  • Burke, Peter. The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School 1929-89, (1990), the major study in English
  • Chirot, D., "The Social and Historical Landscape of Marc Bloch", in Theda Skocpol (ed.), Vision and Method in Historical Sociology (1984), pp. 22–46
  • Epstein, S.R. "Marc Bloch: The Identity of a Historian," Journal of Medieval History 19 (1993), 273-83
  • Fink, Carole. Marc Bloch: A Life in History, (1989)
  • Friedman, Susan W. Marc Bloch, Sociology and Geography: Encountering Changing Disciplines (1996)
  • Hughes, H. Stuart. The Obstructed Path: French Social Thought in the Years of Desperation, 1930-1960 (1968)
  • Jambie, Joseph, ed. Architects and Craftsmen in History (1956)
  • Lyon, B. "Marc Bloch, Historian," French Historical Studies 15 (1987), 195-207
  • Modestin, Georg. "Royal Therapy as a Collective Error," H-Ideas (November, 2000), a retrospective review of The Royal Touch;
  • Morpeth, Neil. "Marc Bloch, Strange Defeat, the Historian’s Craft and World War II: Writing and Teaching Contemporary History." European Legacy 2005 10(3): 179-195. Issn: 1084-8770 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Stirling, Katherine. "Rereading Marc Bloch: the Life and Works of a Visionary Modernist." History Compass 2007 5(2): 525-538. Issn: 1478-0542 Fulltext: