Marc Bloch

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Marc Bloch

Marc Bloch (born July 6, 1886 in Lyon , † June 16, 1944 in Saint-Didier-de-Formans near Lyon) was one of the most important French historians and medievalists of the 20th century as a co-founder of the Annales School .


Origin and early career

Marc Bloch came from a Jewish family originally resident in Alsace , who had left Alsace for France after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870/1871. His father Gustave Bloch was a professor of ancient history and taught at the École normal supérieure in Paris, among others, Lucien Febvre , with whom Marc Bloch would later work intensively. He gave his son a comprehensive humanistic education .

Bloch attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris and then graduated from 1904 to 1908 to study at the École normal supérieure in Paris. In particular, he was influenced there by Professors Paul Vidal de la Blache and Henri Berr , but also took influences from Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim . After completing his military service, he continued his studies at the University of Berlin and Leipzig University in 1908/1909 . He took part in the First World War as a frontline soldier in the French army. He received several awards, including the Croix de guerre , and was inducted into the Legion of Honor . In 1919 he married Simone Vidal and the marriage had six children.

Activity as a scientist

In 1919 Bloch became a lecturer and in 1921 professor of medieval history at the University of Strasbourg . In 1920 he had submitted his dissertation on Capetian history. Ever since he was a student, he had been interested in the "histoire totale", which directed historical interest to completely new areas such as social history and "collective consciousness". This is shown, among other things, in his work The Miraculous Kings , published in 1924 , in which he dealt with the ideas of the miraculous healing powers of the anointed kings of France and England on a broad mentality-historical basis. In 1929 he founded the journal Annales with Lucien Febvre, who was also teaching at the University of Strasbourg at the time, to provide a forum for this universal approach to historical research. In the following time he dealt with agricultural history and in 1931 published the study Caractères originaux de l'histoire rurale française ("The original features of French agricultural history"). The high point of his academic activity was the two-volume work on feudal society ( La Société féodale ) published in 1939/1940 .

In 1936 Bloch was appointed professor of economic history at the Sorbonne in Paris . At the beginning of the Second World War he was a soldier again and fought as an officer until the defeat of France in June 1940.

1940 to 1944

In the spring of 1940 the Wehrmacht achieved a quick victory over the French armed forces . In his book L'Étrange Défaite. Témoignage écrit en 1940 (in the German translation "The strange defeat. France 1940") Bloch looked for reasons for the military debacle in France in the structure of the army, but also in politics and society. Among other things, he reports on his experiences with the “more democratic manners” in the German army: “At all levels of the hierarchy you can feel more clearly the willingness to work together in harmony.” The rudeness of the mysticism that brought about this shouldn't be about the Hide the “tremendous power” that is inherent in it. On the other hand, he criticized the internal turmoil in France after years of conflict between right and left over the Popular Front government , the egoism of the parties and trade unions and the exaggerated pacifism of the left, dragging the political and military leadership of France to the “inability to think about war”, and accused them of being to blame for the failure of one of the mother countries of modern democracy before Nazi aggression.

Since he was no longer allowed to teach in Paris because of his Jewish descent, the Vichy regime called him first to Clermont-Ferrand and in 1941 to Montpellier . During this time Bloch tried to get a call to the New School for Social Research in New York, which he turned down out of consideration for his family, as they could not have accompanied him. After the occupation of southern France on November 11, 1942 , Bloch was officially retired. He moved to his country house and soon became an active member of a Resistance group. In March 1944 he was arrested by the Gestapo in Lyon , imprisoned and severely tortured. On June 16, 1944, he was shot together with 26 other prisoners in the open field near Lyon. He was murdered as a "normal resistance fighter"; not because of his Jewish ancestry.


As a co-founder of the historical school of the Annales , named after the journal Annales d'histoire économique et sociale , founded in 1929, Bloch is one of the most influential historians of the 20th century. His specialty was medieval studies . The novelty of his scientific approach consisted in the introduction of a comparative historical research of European societies in place of traditional national historiography. With his research he also made a significant contribution to the establishment of the history of mentality and above all of the structural history, which he understood as comprehensive historiography, as "histoire totale" .


Memorial plaque on the former Université Strasbourg II named after Bloch (today the University of Strasbourg )

At a Franco-German summit in Berlin in October 1990, it was decided to found a Franco-German research center for social sciences, which was founded as the “ Center Marc Bloch ” in Berlin-Mitte in 1992 and officially opened in 1994. After funding cuts by the French Foreign Ministry in 2008, the existence of this center was in jeopardy for a while. In the meantime, however, it is permanently secured as an “ affiliated institute ” of the Humboldt University in Berlin .

In Bloch's honor, the Université Strasbourg II , which specializes in linguistics and humanities and was created in 1971 from the division of the previous university in the city, has been called Université Marc Bloch since 1998 . In 2009, however, it was reunited with the two other sub-universities to form the University of Strasbourg .


  • Rois et serfs. Un chapitre d'histoire capétienne . Edouard Champion, Paris 1920 ( digitized version ).
  • Les rois thaumaturges: Étude sur le caractère surnaturel attribué à la puissance royale particulièrement en France et en Angleterre . Istra, Paris 1924 ( digitized ).
  • Les caractères originaux de l'histoire rurale française . Aschehoug, Oslo 1931.
  • La Société féodale ( L'Évolution de l'humanité ). 2 volumes. Michel, Paris 1939/1940 ( digitized version ).
  • L'étrange défaite. Témoignage écrit en 1940 . Société des éd. FR Shooter, Paris 1946 ( digitized ).
    • German translation: The strange defeat: France 1940. The historian as a witness . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-10-021603-2 .
  • Apologie pour l'histoire ou Métier d'historien . Ed .: Lucien Febvre , Colin, Paris 1949 (published posthumously, digitized ).
  • Histoire et historiens . Colin, Paris 1995, ISBN 2-200-21655-6 .
    • German translation: From the historian's workshop. On the theory and practice of historical science . Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-593-36279-1 .


  • Michael Erbe : On the more recent French social history research. The group around the "Annales" (= income from research . Vol. 110). Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1979, ISBN 3-534-07551-X , especially the biographical part of Marc Bloch pp. 39–42.
  • Carole Fink: Marc Bloch. A Life in History . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1989, ISBN 0-521-37300-X .
  • Carole Fink: Marc Bloch (1886-1944) . In: Helen Damico, Joseph B. Zavadil (eds.): Medieval Scholarship. Biographical Studies on the Formation of a Discipline, Volume 1: History (= Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 1350). Garland Publishing, New York 1995, ISBN 0-8240-6894-7 , pp. 205-217.
  • Ulrich Raulff : A historian in the 20th century: Marc Bloch . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-10-062909-4 .
  • Peter Schöttler (Ed.): Marc Bloch. Historian and resistance fighter . Campus, Frankfurt am Main / New York 1999, ISBN 3-593-36333-X .
  • Peter Schöttler: Marc Bloch . In: Lutz Raphael (Ed.): From Edward Gibbon to Marc Bloch . Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-54118-6 ( classics of historical science . Vol. 1).
  • Peter Schöttler / Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (eds.), Marc Bloch et les crises du savoir . Berlin 2011 (MPI for the History of Science, preprint 418: online ).
  • Peter Schöttler The German History and Marc Bloch. The first post-war decades . In: Ulrich Pfeil (ed.): The return of German history to the “ecumenism of historians”. An approach to the history of science (= Paris Historical Studies, 89). Oldenbourg, Munich 2008, .

Web links

Commons : Marc Bloch  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Peter Schöttler (Ed.): Marc Bloch. Historian and resistance fighter . Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main / New York 1999, ISBN 3-593-36333-X , p. 277.
  2. Stephan Speicher in the Süddeutsche Zeitung of September 3, 2009; Marc Bloch, The Strange Defeat, Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer 1992, p. 140.
  3. ^ The time of April 10, 1992: When France gave up on itself .
  4. Peter Schöttler : How to proceed with - Marc Bloch? Sozial.Geschichte Online , 23, 2009, 1, pp. 11–50 ( online ).
  5. Center Marc Bloch sees itself facing the end . In: Tagesspiegel . December 12, 2008.