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Thursday, July 6, 2017

An endeavor toward better understanding

“History is, in its essentials, the science of change. It knows and it teaches that it is impossible to find two events that are ever exactly alike, because the conditions from which they spring are never identical.” – Marc Bloch

Born on this date in 1886, Bloch was one of Europe’s leading historians and writers of history, his life cut short by the Second World War where he fought in the French Resistance, was captured and executed by the infamous Klaus Barbie.   Named for the French equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor, he has been honored many times over for his patriotism, historical acumen, and his writing.

In the decade leading up to the war he wrote some of the most important historical pieces on rural history, best expressed in his masterworks, French Rural History (Les caractères originaux de l'histoire rurale française, 1931) and Feudal Society (1939).

Often called by other historians as “one of the two or three greatest historians of the 20th Century,” Bloch’s final work The Historian’s Craft – started just before the war        and published posthumously – is considered a landmark on how to write history.            

As a writer of historical fiction, I always marvel at historians who can craft nonfiction prose in such a way as to elicit deep and abiding interest among all readers. 

“History is neither watchmaking nor cabinet construction,” Bloch once remarked.  “It is an endeavor toward better understanding.”

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