History of mentalities

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The term history of mentalities is a calque, a word for word translation, on the French term histoire des mentalités, which might also be translated as "history of attitudes", "mindsets" or "world-views". The term describes a particular manner of doing history associated with the "critical turn" (tournant critique) of the latter generation of the Annales School (in particular, the historian of books and reading Roger Chartier). The Dutch Johan Huizinga is considered as the first historian writing on the topic (in "Autumn of Middle Ages " 1919)

The history of mentalities focuses not on the wars, great men, and politics[citation needed] which have been the subject matter of most European history-writing since ancient times, but on the wider mindsets of past cultural and social groups. In keeping with the Annales School's interest in the longue durée (the long term), it tends to focus on gradual developments rather than short-term events.

The term can also be seen as an equivalent to, or a form of, cultural history.

See also[edit]


  • Peter Burke, 'Strengths and Weaknesses in the History of Mentalities'. in Varieties of Cultural History (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1997), pp. 162–82; revised from original publication in History of European Ideas, 7 (1986), 439-51.
  • Roger Chartier, 'Cultural History: Between Practices and Representations', trans. Lydia Cochrane (Cambridge, 1988).
  • Philippe Poirrier, Les enjeux de l'histoire culturelle (Paris: Seuil, 2004).