Marc Bloch


Marc Bloch : biography

6 July 1886 – 16 June 1944


With colleague Lucien Febvre he founded the Annales School in 1929, by starting the new scholarly journal, Annales d’Histoire Economique et Sociale ("Annals of economic and social history"), which broke radically with traditional historiography by insisting on the importance of taking all levels of society into consideration and emphasized the collective nature of mentalities.

Bloch has had lasting influence in the field of historiography through his unfinished manuscript The Historian’s Craft, which he was working on at his death. Bloch’s book is often considered one of the most important historiographical works of the 20th century.


  • Bloch’s focus on the longue durée and his emphasis upon structures underlying events led to misguided accusations of a denial of human agency and a marginalization of political history. In Strange Defeat he clearly states his view that individuals can change events and he castigates the French government’s refusal to trust its own officers in the field of battle, thus leading to the surrender of France to the Nazis.
  • In 1998 the University of Social Sciences in Strasbourg was renamed in honour of Bloch. Marc Bloch University became a constituent part of the University of Strasbourg on 1 January 2009.


Bloch was highly interdisciplinary, influenced by the geography of Paul Vidal de la Blache (1845–1918)Jason Hilkovitch & Max Fulkerson, "Paul Vidal de la Blache: A biographical sketch" at and the sociology of Émile Durkheim (1858–1917). In Méthodologie Historique (written in 1906 but not published until 1988), Bloch rejected the histoire événementielle (event history) of his mentors Charles-Victor Langlois and Charles Seignobos to argue for greater analysis of the role of structural and social phenomena in determining the outcome of historical events. Bloch was trying to reinvent history as a social science, but he departed significantly from Durkheim in his refusal to exclude psychology from history; Bloch maintained that the individual actor should be considered along with social forces. Bloch’s methodology was also greatly influenced by his father, Gustave Bloch, a historian of the ancient world, and by 19th-century scholars such as Gabriel Monod, Ernest Renan, and Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges.

Bloch vigorously supported the idea of international scholarly cooperation and tried unsuccessfully to set up an international journal with American support. Bloch wrote some 500 reviews of German books and articles, While promoting the importance of German historiography and admiring its scholarly rigor, he repeatedly criticized its nationalism and methodological limitations.

History of technology

The November 1935 issue of the Annales contains Febvre’s introduction that defines three essential approaches to a history of technology: to investigate technology, to understand the progress of technology, and to understand the relationship of technology to other human activities. Bloch’s article, "The Advent and Triumph of the Watermill in Medieval Europe," incorporates these approaches by investigating the connections between technology and broader social issues.Pamela O. Long, "The Annales and the History of Technology: Annales D’histoire Economique et Sociale 7 (November 1935), Les Techniques, L’histoire et La Vie." Technology and Culture 2005 46(1): 177-186. Issn: 0040-165x Fulltext: Project Muse

Rural history

Bloch’s own ideas on rural history were best expressed in his masterworks, French Rural History (Les caractères originaux de l’histoire rurale française, 1931) and Feudal Society (1939).

In L’Individualisme Agraire du XVIIIe Siècle (1978), Bloch characterized the agrarian reforms of 18th-century France as a "failed revolution," citing the persistence of regional traditions as evidence for their failure. A typical example of the Annales School’s "total history," Bloch’s argument weaves the connections between politics, culture, and economics against a backdrop of class conflict to illustrate how "the conscious actions of men have overcome the rhythms of the materialist causality of history." He argued that the anti-feudal sentiment of French peasants expressed in the 1789 cahier de doléances (list of grievances) was linked to the "seigneurial reaction" of the late 18th century in which lords significantly increased feudal dues. Bloch argued that it was this intensified exploitation that provoked peasant revolt, leading to the Revolution.