Marc Bloch

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Marc Léopold Benjamin Bloch (6 July 1886 in Lyon – 16 June 1944 in Saint-Didier-de-Formans) was a French historian who cofounded the highly influential Annales School of French social history. Bloch was a quintessential modernist. An assimilated Alsatian Jew from an academic family in Paris, he was deeply affected in his youth by the Dreyfus Affair. He studied at the elite École Normale Supérieure; in 1908-9 he studied at Berlin and Leipzig. He fought in the trenches of the Western Front for four years. In 1919 he became Lecturer in Medieval history at Strasbourg University, after the German professors were all expelled; he was called to the Sorbonne in Paris in 1936 as professor of economic history. He is best known for his pioneering studies French Rural History and Feudal Society and his posthumously-published unfinished meditation on the writing of history, The Historian's Craft. He was captured and shot by the Gestapo during the German occupation of France for his work in the French Resistance.



Youth and First World War

Born in Lyon to a Jewish family, the son of the professor of ancient history Gustave Bloch, Marc studied at the École Normale Supérieure and Foundation Thiers in Paris, then at Berlin and Leipzig. He was an officer of infantry in World War I, rising to the rank of captain and being awarded the Légion d'honneur.

After the war, he went to the university at Strasbourg, then in 1936 succeeded Henri Hauser as professor of economic history at the Sorbonne.


In 1924 he published one of his most famous works Les rois thaumaturges: étude sur le caractère surnaturel attribué à la puissance royale particulièrement en France et en Angleterre (translated in English as The magic-working kings or The royal touch: sacred monarchy and scrofula in England and France) in which he collected, described and studied the documents pertaining to the ancient tradition that the kings of the Middle Ages were able to cure the disease of scrofula simply by touching people suffering from it. This tradition has its roots in the magical role of kings in ancient societies. This work by Bloch had a great impact not only on the social history of Middle Ages but also on cultural anthropology.[citation needed]

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