TWO CONTRASTING FRENCH APPROACHES TO HISTORIOGRAPHY

Authors


ABSTRACT

This essay reviews two books in the French Que Sais-je? series by Charles-Olivier Carbonell in 1981 and by Nicolas Offenstadt in 2011 on the topic of historiography. Offenstadt's volume is intended to bring Carbonell's up to date, but goes in very different directions. There is general agreement among historians that a fundamental reorientation has taken place in historical thought and writing in the past half century, about which quite a bit has been written in recent years in the West, including in Latin America, East Asia, and India. But this is not the theme of either of these volumes. Carbonell tells the history of history from the ancient Greeks to the twentieth-century Annales; Offenstadt is not interested in examining major trends in historiography as much of the historiographical literature has done, but in analyzing the changes that the key concepts that guide contemporary historical studies have undergone. For Carbonell's chronological narrative of the history of historical writing, theory has no place; for Offenstadt, who proceeds analytically, history and theory are inseparable. He deals specifically with changes in conceptions of historical time, of the role of documents, of the place of history within the social sciences, of the centrality of narrative, and finally of historical memory.

Ancillary