by lenastinaandersson

Fernand Braudel, The Long Durée


Time slots and slow change

This text did not so much shock me to thought as it did slowly grow on me over time. What I kept returning to was the discussion on dividing time and the benefits of addressing slow change. Braudel was a later contributor to the French Annales School, a group of French historians promoting new ways of writing history. In this text, Braudel advocates the long durée, arguing for longer time frames that could expand the reach and possibilities of history production. The possibilities proposed in the text are offering new knowledge on change and cyclical understanding and reoccurring events that otherwise is suggested to remain undiscovered. Braudels critique of traditional history is concerned with the short time span and the “individual and the event”(p 27) and lies partly within its inability to narrate the cyclicality of history, the repetitive and therefore as he describes, typical. To limit history to a short event is to deprive its possibilities, as “history is the total of all possible histories- an assemblage of professions and points of view, from yesterday, today and tomorrow”(p 34). The historian’s work is according to Braudel constituted of the way that time is broken up and the fragments are reunited. I find the range of temporal scales, stretching from the short time span of the chronicle and the event in the newspaper to the concept of deep time and big history, encompassing longer perspective such as the anthropocene, useful for laying out my own work. This text has made me reconsider micro history and the narrow study of a carefully selected situation or environment-world and how this can fit in to and give relevance to longer time frames. Another potential of the long durée, as suggested by Braudel, is that it is revealing the otherwise invisible and uninteresting, the slow movement, the quiet voice and the motionless history. The loud voice becomes less prominent in the long durée. I find this approach compelling and it reminds me of an ethnographic site study I once made. By spending an unusually long time at a familiar situation, watching seemingly uninteresting events, I was surprised to see situations and layers otherwise invisible to me. “Each current event brings together movements of different origins, a different rythm: todays time dates from yesterday, the day before yesterday and all former times.” (p34)