Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch
(July 6, 1886 in Lyon – June 16,
1944 in Saint-Didier-de-Formans) was a medieval historian, University Professor and French Army officer.
Bloch was a founder
of the Annales School
, best known for
his pioneering studies French Rural History
and his posthumously-published unfinished meditation
on the writing of history, The Historian's Craft.
captured and shot by the Gestapo during the
German occupation of France for his work in the French Resistance.
Youth and First World War
Lyon to a Jewish family, the son
of the professor of ancient history Gustave Bloch, Marc studied at the Ecole Normale
Supérieure and Foundation
Thiers in Paris, then at
Berlin and Leipzig.
was an officer of infantry
in World War I
, rising to the rank of captain and
being awarded the Légion
war, he went to the university at Strasbourg, then in 1936 succeeded Henri Hauser as professor of economic history at the Sorbonne.
In 1924 he published one of his most famous works Les rois
thaumaturges: étude sur le caractère surnaturel attribué à la
puissance royale particulièrement en France et en Angleterre
(sometimes translated in English as The magic-working
or The royal touch: sacred monarchy and scrofula in
England and France
) in which he collected, described and
studied the documents pertaining to the ancient tradition that the
kings of the Middle Ages were able to cure the disease of scrofula
simply by touching people suffering from
it. This tradition has its roots in the magical role of kings in
ancient societies. This work by Bloch had a great impact not only
on the social history of Middle Ages but also on cultural
In 1929, Bloch founded, with Lucien
, the important journal Annales d'histoire
économique et sociale
(now called Annales.
) whose name came to be attached to an
historical approach called the Annales School. Bloch's most
important work centered on the study of feudalism
. He published a large work, available in
a two-volume English translation as Feudal Society.
some ways, his most innovative work is his monograph French
Bloch has had lasting influence in the field of historiography
through his unfinished
manuscript The Historian's Craft
, which he was working on
when he was killed by the Nazis
. Bloch's book
and What is History?
are often considered two of
the most important historiographical works of the 20th
Second World War
In 1939 France declared war on Germany after its invasion and
occupation of Poland. As France mobilized its troops, Marc Bloch
left his position at the Sorbonne and took up his reserve status as
a captain in the French Army at the age of 52. He was encouraged at
the time by colleagues both in France and abroad to leave the
country. He said it was his personal obligation to stand for the
"I was born in France, I have drunk the waters of her
culture. I have made her past my own. I breathe
freely only in her climate, and I have done my best, with others,
to defend her interests."
- from The Strange Defeat
Bloch's book, Strange Defeat
(published posthumously), assesses the rapid failure of the French
army to repel the German Blitzkrieg
1940 and his personal view of his French heritage and obligation to
his Nation. Bloch was captured just before the landing of
Allied forces in Normandy; he was imprisoned, tortured and eventually shot
along with twenty-six others by the Gestapo for his
participation in the French
- Bloch's focus on the longue
durée and his emphasis upon structures underlying events
led to misguided accusations of a denial of human agency and a
marginalization of political history. In Strange Defeat he
clearly states his view that individuals can change events and he
castigates the French government's refusal to trust its own
officers in the field of battle, thus leading to the surrender of
France to the Nazis.
- Feudal Society, Tr. L.A. Manyon, (Chicago: University
of Chicago Press, 1961); 2 volumes.
- French Rural History, tr. Janet Sondheimer (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966; Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1966). Translation of Les
caractères originaux de l'histoire rurale française, 1931.
- The royal touch: sacred monarchy and scrofula in England
and France (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973).
- Strange Defeat; a Statement of
Evidence Written in 1940 (London: Oxford University Press,
1949; New York: W. W. Norton, 1968) Original French
- The Historian's Craft, Tr. Peter Putnam, (New York:
Vintage Book, 1953) Original French text: