Longue durée

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The longue durée (French pronunciation: ​[lɔ̃ɡ dyʁe]; English: the long term) 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), concentrating instead on all-but-permanent or slowly evolving structures, and substitutes for elite biographies 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.

Settler colonialism[edit]

Academics often apply Braudel's underlying logic of the longue durée to examine settler colonialism, an imperialistic style of colonization with a fixation on land, not resources. The notion, as outlined by historians, is supported by the claim that Manifest destiny, the impetus to American imperialism, resulted in the large-scale devastation and destruction of indigenous peoples in the Americas.[15]

Minerva Campion details the nuances of a longue durée view of Amazonian colonization. She asserts that the cultural and societal structures of indigenous peoples in the Amazon fell apart at the hands of missionaries, ecologists, and oil conglomerates throughout history.[16] Historians also identify this pattern in United States history. For instance, American Progress, an 1872 painting by Brooklyn painter John Gast, provides an allegorical representation of U.S. westward expansion. The landscape portrays the east as warm and sophisticated and the west as dark and uncivilized—epitomizing the sense of disdain with which Americans viewed the indigenous peoples.[17]

Proponents of the longue durée assert that a broader, more macro synthesis of history elucidates long-term patterns and trends that would not otherwise be realized. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, one of many contemporary historians with expertise in this area, argues that U.S. and European Imperialism laid the foundation for a systemic type of xenophobia and settler colonialism that exists today. She describes settler colonialism as "inherently genocidal."[18] Pablo Mitchell also provides evidence in attempts to support the idea of modern-day settler colonialism; he writes that itinerant preacher Reies Tijerina of New Mexico noted in 1962 that forestland in the northern part of the state had been "illegally taken from the townspeople of the village of Chama" by the U.S. Government, who cited the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo as justification.[19]

For more information on misconceptions of settler colonialism, see: Dominant narrative - history - Indigenous Peoples in North America.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "longue durée | Definition of longue durée in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. 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.
  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. ^ Barker, Adam J. (2012-12-01). "Locating Settler Colonialism". Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History. 13 (3). doi:10.1353/cch.2012.0035. ISSN 1532-5768. S2CID 162637674.
  16. ^ Campion, Minerva (2016). "The Construction of the Amazonian Borderlands through the Longue Durée: An Indigenous Perspective". Journal of Borderlands Studies. 33: 123–140. doi:10.1080/08865655.2016.1226926. S2CID 151645603.
  17. ^ "The History of United States Settler Colonialism – Hidden History Center". Retrieved 2019-04-17.
  18. ^ Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne (2015). An Indigenous People's History of the United States. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 9. ISBN 978-0-8070-5783-4.
  19. ^ Mitchell, Pablo (2018). Understanding Latino History. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood. p. 142. ISBN 9781440841699.

Sources and further reading[edit]