Longue durée

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The longue durée (French pronunciation: [lɔ̃ɡ dyʁe]; English: the long term) is the French Annales School approach to the study of history.[1] 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). It concentrates instead on all-but-permanent or slowly evolving structures, and replaces elite biographies with the broader syntheses of prosopography. The crux of the idea is to examine extended periods of time and draw conclusions from historical trends and patterns.[2]


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[3] into general history, was pioneered by Marc Bloch[4] and Lucien Febvre in the Interwar period. The approach was carried on by Fernand Braudel,[5] who published his views after becoming the editor of Annales in 1956.[6] 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".[7] Among the works which Braudel remarked on as examples of the longue durée was Alphonse Dupront's study[8] 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.[9] 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."[10] Braudel also stressed the importance of slow-changing geographic factors, like the constraints placed by the natural environment upon human production and communication. In the first volume of The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, for example, he described the tension between mountain dwellers and plain dwellers, with their different cultures and economic models, as a basic feature of Mediterranean history over thousands of years.[11]

The history of the longue durée that informs Braudel's two masterworks[12] therefore 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.[13]

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."[14] Sergio Villalobos also expressly took the long view in his Historia del pueblo chileno.

Jean-François Bayart extended the concept to Africa. The systems of inequality and domination inherent in pre-colonial African societies have their own historical dynamics. Consequently, postcolonial national constructions cannot be understood from the sole point of view of their relations with the Western powers and their position in the world economy, Bayart argued.[15] African states must therefore be analyzed in their historicity, which implies analyzing the power relations within contemporary African societies - in particular the role played by the dominant class in its societies, so as to update all the parameters that influence the present and the future of these States, he posited.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "longue durée | Definition of longue durée in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Archived from the original on January 7, 2018. Retrieved 2019-04-17.
  2. ^ Grote, Mathias (2015). What could the 'longue duree' mean for the history of modern sciences?. Boston: Greenstone. p. 5.
  3. ^ 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.")
  4. ^ 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).
  5. ^ Wesseling, H. L. (July 1981). "Fernand Braudel, Historian Of The 'Longue Durée'". Itinerario. 5 (2): 15–29. doi:10.1017/S0165115300007105. ISSN 2041-2827. S2CID 162154342.
  6. ^ Lee, Richard (2012). Fernand Braudel, the Longue Duree, and World Systems Analysis. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. p. 2.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Dupront, Le Mythe de Croisade: essai de sociologie religieuse, 1959, reprinted without the subtitle 1997.
  9. ^ Braudel 1958:732.
  10. ^ "de vieilles attitudes de penser et d'agir, de cadres résistants, durs à mourir, parfois contre toute logique" (p. 733).
  11. ^ Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, 2nd ed., vol. 1 (Paris: 1966), s. I.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ At least Braudel thought so, remarking the contrast and explicitly mentioning these particular 19th-century historians (Braudel 1958:729).
  14. ^ Cameron, "Conclusion", The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity AD 396–600, 1993:197.
  15. ^ "A livre ouvert" (PDF) (in French). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-10-16. Retrieved 2023-08-18.
  16. ^ Bayart, Jean-François; Hibou, Béatrice; Samuel, Boris (2010). "L'Afrique " cent ans après les indépendances " : Vers quel gouvernement politique?". Politique Africaine. 119 (3): 129–157. doi:10.3917/polaf.119.0129.

Sources and further reading[edit]