Longue durée  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The longue durée (the long term) is an expression used by the French Annales School of historical writing to designate their approach to the study of history. 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.

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 into general history, was pioneered by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre in the Interwar period. The approach was carried on by Fernand Braudel, who published his views after becoming the editor of Annales in 1956. 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". Among the works which Braudel remarked on as examples of the longue durée was Alphonse Dupront's study 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. 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." 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.

The history of the longue durée that informs Braudel's two masterworks 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.

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." Sergio Villalobos also expressly took the long view in his Historia del pueblo chileno.

Settler colonialism

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 British Imperialism, resulted in the large-scale devastation and destruction of Indigenous peoples in the Americas.

Minerva Campion details the nuances of a longue durée view of Amazonian colonization. She asserts that cultural and societal structures of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon fall apart at the hands of missionaries, ecologists, and oil conglomerates throughout history. Historians also identify this pattern in United States history. For instance, American Progress, a 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.

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." 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.

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

See also

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