The longue durée (French pronunciation: [lɔ̃ɡ dyʁe]; English: the long term) is an expression used by the French Annales School of historical writing to designate their approach to the study of history. It gives priority to long-term historical structures over what François Simiand called histoire événementielle ("evental history", the short-term time-scale that is the domain of the chronicler and the journalist), concentrating instead on all-but-permanent or slowly evolving structures, and substitutes for élite biographies the broader syntheses of prosopography.
The longue durée is part of a tripartite system that includes short term événements and medium term conjunctures (periods of decades or centuries when more profound cultural changes such as the industrial revolution can take place).
The approach, which incorporates social scientific methods such as the recently evolved field of economic history into general history, was pioneered by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre in the Interwar period. The approach was carried on by Fernand Braudel in the second part of the century: Braudel took stock of the current status of social studies in crisis, foundering under the weight of their own successes, in an article in 1958, "Histoire et sciences sociales: La longue durée". Among the works which Braudel remarked on as examples of the longue durée was Alphonse Dupront's study of the long-standing idea in Western Europe of a crusade, which extended across diverse European societies far beyond the last days of the actual crusades, and among spheres of thought with a long life he noted Aristotelian science. In the longue durée of economic history, beyond, or beneath, the cycles and structural crises, lie "old attitudes of thought and action, resistant frameworks dying hard, at times against all logic." In this sense the history of the longue durée that informs Braudel's two masterworks offers a contrast to the archives-directed history that arose at the end of the 19th century and a return to the broader views of the earlier generation of Jules Michelet, Leopold von Ranke, Jacob Burckhardt or Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges.
Averil Cameron, in examining the Mediterranean world in Late Antiquity concluded that "consideration of the longue durée is more helpful than the appeal to immediate causal factors." Sergio Villalobos also expressly took the long view in his Historia del pueblo chileno.
- A "first key", according to Braudel 1958:731, who asserted (p. 734) "All the human sciences, history included, are contaminated by one another. They speak the same language, or can do so." ("Tous les sciences de l'homme, y compris l'histoire, sont contaminées les unes par les autres. Elles parlent le même langage ou peuvent le parler.")
- In this context Fernand Braudel (1958:734) remarked on the great distance between Bloch and the history writing of the mediaevalist and palaeographer Charles-Victor Langlois and Charles Seignobos, summed up in their joint Introduction aux Études Historiques (1897).
- Published in Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 13.4 (October - December 1958), pp. 725–753; he returned in 1987 to examine with A. Coll the alliance between the new history and the social sciences, in "Histoire et sciences sociales: La longue durée" Réseaux, 5:27 1987:7-37.
- Dupront, Le Mythe de Croisade: essai de sociologie religieuse, 1959, reprinted without the subtitle 1997.
- Braudel 1958:732.
- "de vieilles attitudes de penser et d'agir, de cadres résistants, durs à mourir, parfois contre toute logique" (p. 733).
- The effects of geography on human affairs sketched in the opening of The Mediterranean in the Time of Philip II and the first volume especially of Civilization and Capitalism: 15th-18th Century, with its evocative title The structures of everyday life: the limits of the possible.
- At least Braudel thought so, remarking the contrast and explicitly mentioning these particular 19th-century historians (Braudel 1958:729).
- Cameron, "Conclusion", The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity AD 396-600, 1993:197.
Sources and further reading
- Fernand Braudel and Sarah Matthews, On History, The University of Chicago Press, 1982, ISBN 978-0-226-07151-0
- Robert D. Putnam with Robert Leonardi and Raffaella Y. Nanetti, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy, Princeton University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-691-03738-8
- Debating the long durée, a special section in Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales - English Edition, ISSN: 2398-5682 (Print), 2268-3763 (Online)