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The Order of Historical Time: The Longue Durée and Micro-History

Abstract

This article is concerned with Fernand Braudel's conception of the plural temporality and, above all, the longue durée as a practical tool for historical inquiry. Through an examination of the work of Braudel's colleague Ernst Labrousse, it emphasizes the theoretical and methodological assumptions underlying the practice of serial history as the means to reconstruct such "structural temporalities." Finally, it treats the concern for the episodic and short-term that characterizes Italian microhistória as a reaction to the dominance of French serial history which, nonetheless remains in relation to Braudel's conception of plural time. In this way the article seeks to make explicit the relationship between the socalled "second Annales" of Braudel and Italian microhistory and to suggest ways the conceptions of temporality might promote dialogue between diverse historiographical approaches.

Keywords:
plural temporality; longue durée; Fernand Braudel; Annales; school; serial history; Ernst Labrousse; Micro-História

Resumo

Este artigo aborda a concepção de temporalidade plural de Fernand Braudel e, sobretudo, a longue durée como instrumento prático para a pesquisa histórica. Por meio da análise do trabalho de Erenst Labrousse, colega de Braudel, enfatiza os pressupostos teóricos e metodológicos que permeiam a prática da história serial como meio para reconstrução dessas "temporalidades estruturais". Por fim, trata da preocupação com o episódico e com o curto prazo que caracteriza a micro-história italiana como uma reação ao domínio da história serial francesa, a qual, entretanto, permanece ligada à concepção braudeliana de tempo plural. O artigo procura, desse modo, deixar explícita a relação entre a chamada "segunda fase" dos Annales de Braudel e a micro-história italiana, bem como sugerir caminhos pelos quais as concepções de temporalidade podem promover o diálogo entre abordagens historiográficas diversas.

Palavras-chave:
temporalidade plural; longue durée; Fernand Braudel; Annales; escola dos; história serial; Ernest Labrousse; Micro-História

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  • 1
    BRAUDEL, Fernand. En guise de conclusion. Review, vol.I, n.3/4, p.244-245, 1978.
  • 2
    BRAUDEL, Fernand. History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Durée. Immanuel Wallerstein, trans. Review, vol.XXXII, n.2, p.179-180.Pour moi, l'histoire est la somme de toutes les histoires possibles - une collection de métiers et points de vue, d'hier, d'aujourd'hui, de demain. La seule erreur, à mon avis, serait de choisir l'une de ces histoires à l'exclusion des autres. Ce fût, ce serait l'erreur historisante.
  • 3
    BRAUDEL, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. 2 Vols. Berkeley: University of California Press, vol.I, 1995, p.23-272.
  • 4
    Although Braudel is elaborating a concept of structural time (that is historical temporalities beyond direct and immediate human or social intervention) and speaks of the longue durée as a structure, it should be stressed here that he is not proposing a structuralism. The longue durée is not a structure in the sociological sense of the word, that is a fixed attribute of the social system (as in Parsons' sociology or Althusser's Marxism). Nor is Braudel's historical account a "grand narrative." Rather, the longue durée is a more or less stable historical relation that allows an open and experimental approach to the theoretical reconstruction of long-term, large-scale world historical change.
  • 5
    KOSELLECK, Reinhardt. Los estratos del tiempo: estudios sobre la historia. Barcelona: Ediciones Piadós, 2001. p.99-100.
  • 6
    Ibidem, p.96-97.
  • 7
    In his Preface to the first edition of The Mediterranean, Braudel writes: "I could not neglect this almost timeless history, the story of man's contact with the inanimate, neither could I be satisfied with the traditional geographical introduction to history that often figures to little purpose at the beginning of so many books..." (BRAUDEL, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World... Op. Cit., vol.I, p.20. Cf. KOSELLECK, Reinhardt. Los estratos del tiempo: estudios sobre la historia. Barcelona: Ediciones Piadós, 2001. p.96-97.)
  • 8
    "The resulting picture is one in which all the evidence combines across time and space, to give us a history in slow motion from which permanent values can be detected. Geography in this context is no longer an end in itself but a means to an end. It helps us to rediscover the slow unfolding of structural realities, to see things in the perspective of the very long term. Geography, like history, can answer many questions. Here it helps us to discover the almost imperceptible movement of history, if only we are prepared to follow its lessons and accept is categories and divisions" ( BRAUDEL, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World... Op. Cit., vol.I, p.23. Cf. KOSELLECK, Reinhardt. Los estratos del tiempo... Op. Cit., p.94).
  • 9
    BRAUDEL, Fernand. History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Durée...Op. Cit., p.178-179.
  • 10
    Editorial. Tentons l'éxperience: Histoire et sciences socials. Annales, Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations, vol.44, n.6, p.1319-1320, novembredécembre, 1989.
  • 11
    BRAUDEL, Fernand. History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Durée...Op. Cit., p.181.
  • 12
    Ibidem, p.198.
  • 13
    GRENIER, Jean-Yves. Expliquer et comprendre. La construction du temps de l'histoire économique. In: LEPETIT, Bernard (org.). Les formes de l'expérience: Une autre histoire sociale. Paris: Éditions Albin Michel, 1995. p.235 e p.238-242.
  • 14
    BRAUDEL, Fernand. History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Durée...Op. Cit., p.198.
  • 15
    Ibidem, p.182.
  • 16
    Braudel's conception of plural and structured historical time resolves the conceptual dilemma presented by event history. If event is the only temporal category at our disposition, we have no way to talk about diverse and complex temporal phenomena of varying duration and the relations comprising them. The French Revolution is often described as an event. The storming of the Bastille, the flight of the king to Varennes, and the Tennis Court Oath are also events. If the Revolution is regarded as an event, it has the same logical structure as its constituent elements. All are events, defined simply by having the property of a definite beginning and a definite end, a "minimal 'before' and 'after' that constitutes their unity" (KOSELLECK, Reinhardt. Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985. p.106). They are "timeless" except through reference to an external chronology. The Revolution may perhaps then be seen as an event of events, in which case, its temporal structure is established by the summing up of its parts. It is at once constituted and explained by narrating (contingent) sequences of events with arbitrary beginnings and ends. From such a perspective, the Revolution has no structure, and the tools available for explaining it extremely limited at best.
  • 17
    "Clearly there are different kinds of structure just as there are different kinds of conjuncture, and the duration of either structure or conjuncture may vary. History accepts and discovers multidimensional explanations, reaching, as it were, vertically from one temporal plane to another. And on every plane there are also horizontal relationships and connections" (BRAUDEL, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World... Op. Cit., vol.I, p.16).
  • 18
    BRAUDEL, Fernand. History and the Social Sciences. In: BURKE, Peter Burke (ed.). Economy and Society in Early Modern Europe: Essays from Annales. New York: Harper, 1972. p.14-15.
  • 19
    Ibidem, p.13.
  • 20
    BRAUDEL, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World... Op. Cit., vol.II, p.901.
  • 21
    Idem. History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Durée...Op. Cit., p.182.
  • 22
    BRAUDEL, Fernand. Histoire et sciences sociales. La longue durée. Annales: Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations, vol.13, n.4, p.751, 1958.
  • 23
    AGUIRRE ROJAS, Carlos Antonio. La Escuela de los Annales: Ayer, Hoy, Mañana. Barcelona: Montesinos, 1999. p.141-170.
  • 24
    Pierre Chaunu defines serial history as "a history that is concerned less with the individual fact (the political fact, naturally, but also the cultural or economic fact) than with the repeated element {that is}, therefore integrable into a homogeneous series, and immediately susceptible to being the object of classical analytical procedures of mathematics, susceptible, above all, of being linked up with the series habitually utilized by the other sciences of man (CHAUNU, Pierre. Historia cuantitativa, historial serial. México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1987).
  • 25
    KOSELLECK, Reinhardt. Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1985. p.107. GRENIER, Jean-Yves. Expliquer et comprendre... Op. Cit., p.239.
  • 26
    POMIAN, Krzysztof. L'Ordre du temps. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1984. p.76.
  • 27
    LABROUSSE, Ernest. Esquisse du mouvement des prix et des revenues en France au XVIIIe siècle . 2 Vols. Paris: Librairie Dalloz / Repr. Paris: Éditions des archives contemporaines, 1933 (repr. 1984). Idem. La crise de l'économie française á la fin de l'Ancien Régime et au début de la Revolution. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1944 (repr. 1990).
  • 28
    BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse: Genèse d'un modele d'histoire économique. Paris: Éditions de l"École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, 2005. POMIAN, Krzysztof. L'Ordre du temps... Op. Cit., p.83-92. GRENIER, Jean-Yves. Expliquer et comprendre... Op. Cit., p.235-243.
  • 29
    GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique: Sur C.-E. Labrousse. Annales. Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations, vol.44, n.6, p.1344, novembro-dezembro, 1989.
  • 30
    BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit.,p.138-153.
  • 31
    Labrousse argues that only the mercuriale, "based on a considerable mass of transactions, drawn up at least from week to week or from fair to fair, by market professionals {professionnels du marché} using identical qualities and following identical procedures, supervised by competing interests, largely purged of minor errors with which it teems by the law of large numbers, can express the price trend in the full elasticity of the market being considered and permits the calculation of a monthly or annual average price. By means of it and it alone can one find, after employing controls and elaborations, ... representative averages, representative of the ensemble of transactions during the ensemble of months during the year as a whole. Account books often only provide episodes of this history" LABROUSSE, Ernest. La crise de l'économie française... Op. Cit., p.12-13. POMIAN, Krzysztof. L'Ordre du temps... Op. Cit., p.77-78. GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit., p.1342, 1350.
  • 32
    GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit., p.1345-1346.
  • 33
    LABROUSSE, Ernest. Esquisse du mouvement des prix...Op. Cit., esp. vol.II, p.640-642. POMIAN, Krzysztof. L'Ordre du temps... Op. Cit., p.80-82. BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit., p.209-270.
  • 34
    BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit., p.150, p.186-187 e p.190. GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit., p.1351.
  • 35
    GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit., p.1351.
  • 36
    Ibidem.
  • 37
    BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit., p.121.
  • 38
    Ibidem, p.191-193.
  • 39
    Ibidem, p.193-194. GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit., p.1352-1355.
  • 40
    LABROUSSE, Ernest. Esquisse du mouvement des prix... Op. Cit., vol.II, p.640-641.
  • 41
    GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit., p.1354-1355. BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit., p.196-197.
  • 42
    DUMOULIN, Olivier. Aux origins de l'histoire des prix. Annales. Ecomomies, Sociétés, Civilisations, n.2, p.507-522, 1990. BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit., p.147-153.
  • 43
    HAUSER, Henri. Recherches et documents sur l'histoire des prix en France de 1500 á 1800. Paris: Slatkine Reprints, 1936 (repr. 1985). p.37-45.
  • 44
    Ibidem, p.1-2 e p.71-72. GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit., p.1342. BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit., p.152.
  • 45
    HAUSER, Henri. Recherches et documents... Op. Cit., p.72.
  • 46
    Ibidem, p.71. GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit., p.1342. POMIAN, Krzysztof. L'Ordre du temps... Op. Cit., p.77.
  • 47
    LABROUSSE, Ernest. La crise de l'économie française...Op. Cit., p.171. GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit., p.1351. POMIAN, Krzysztof. L'Ordre du temps... Op. Cit., p.78.
  • 48
    PARIS, Erato. La genèse intellectuelle de l'oeuvre de Fernand Braudel: La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen à l'époque de Philippe II (1923-(1947). Athens: Institut de recherches néohelléniques, Fondation national de la recherche de Grèce, 1999. BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit., p.150.
  • 49
    BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit., p.150, p.170-180 e p.200-203. GRENIER, Jean-Yves. Expliquer et comprendre... Op. Cit., p.227.
  • 50
    GRENDI, Edoardo. Repenser la microhistoire?. In: REVEL, Jacques (org.). Jeux d'échelles. La microanalyse à l'expérience. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1996. p.233.
  • 51
    The dialogue between structural time and microhistory, of course, continues with the initiatives for a "fourth Annales" associated with Jacques Revel, Jean-Yves Grenier and the late Bernard Lepetit (Annales. Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations. n.44, novembre-décembre, 1989; AGUIRRE ROJAS, Carlos Antonio. La Escuela de los Annales... Op. Cit., p.190-212). GINZBURG, Carlo e PONI, Carlo. The Name of the Game: Unequal Exchange and the Historical Marketplace. In: MUIR, Edward and RUGGIERO, Guido. Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. p.1-10. GINZBURG, Carlo. Microhistory: Two or Three Things That I Know about It. Critical Inquiry, vol.20, n.1, p.10-35, 1993. LIMA, Enrique Espada. A micro-história italiana. Escalas, indícios e singularidades. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2006. p.64-85.
  • 52
    FURET, François e LE GOFF, Jacques. Histoire et ethnologie. In: Méthodologie de l'histoire et des sciences humaines. Vol.2 of Mélanges en l'honneur de Fernand Braudel. Toulouse, 1973. p.231, cited in GINZBURG, Carlo. Micraohistory... Op. Cit., p.18 e p.21; GRENIER, Jean-Yves e LEPETIT, Bernard. L'expérience historique... Op. Cit.
  • 53
    LEVI, Giovanni. On Microhistory. In: BURKE, Peter (org.). New Perspectives on Historical Writing. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1991. p.109.
  • 54
    54Ibidem, p.95-97.
  • 55
    Levi continues: "The reduction in scale is an experimental operation precisely because of this fact, that it assumes that the delineations of context and its coherence are apparent and it brings out those contradictions which only appear when the scale is altered. This clarification can also occur, incidentally, as Jacques Revel has rightly observed, by enlarging the scale. The choice of micro dimensions arose as a direct result of the traditional preponderance of macro contextual interpretation, in view of which it was the only possible direction to take". Ibidem, p.107.
  • 56
    Ibidem, p.94. Histoire et sciences sociales. Un tournant critique. Annales. Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations, p.1320, 1989.
  • 57
    LEVI, Giovanni. On Microhistory... Op. Cit., p.94.
  • 58
    GINZBURG, Carlo. Microhistory... Op. Cit., p.96125, esp. p.105-107.
  • 59
    "It seems to me that microhistory moves more firmly towards the non-quantitative branches of mathematics in order to furnish more realistic and less mechanistic representations, thus broadening the field of indeterminacy without necessarily rejecting formalized elaborations" (LEVI, Giovanni. On Microhistory... Op. Cit., p.109, my emphasis).
  • 60
    ZEUSKE, Michael. Sklaven und Sklaverei in den Welt des Atlantiks, 1400-1940: Umrisse, Anfänge, Akteure, Vergleichsfelder und Bibliographien. Berlin: LIT Verlag, 2006. p.9.
  • 61
    HOPKINS, Terence K. World-Systems analysis: Methodological Issues. In: HOPKINS, Terence K. e WALLERSTEIN, Immanuel (org.). World-Systems Analysis: Theory and Methodology. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1982. p.149.
  • 62
    Carlo Ginzburg contends: "Though pretensions to systematic knowledge may appear more and more far-fetched, the idea of totality does not necessarily need to be abandoned. On the contrary, the existence of a deeply rooted relationship that explains superficial phenomena is confirmed the very moment it is stated that direct knowledge of such a connection is not possible. Though reality may seem to be opaque, there are privileged zones - signs, clues - which allow us to penetrate it" (GINZBURG, Carlo. Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm. In: Clues, Myths and the Historical Method. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. p.123).
  • 63
    BORGHETTI, Maria Novella. L'Oeuvre d'Ernest Labrousse... Op. Cit., p.167.
  • 64
    AGUIRRE ROJAS, Carlos Antonio. La Escuela de los Annales... Op. C

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    Dec 2011

History

  • Received
    Apr 2010
  • Accepted
    Aug 2010
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