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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Braudel’s Mediterranean and Italy

  • Author(s): Marino, John A.
  • et al.

This article reviews the Italian reception of the French historian Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) and his scholarly work. Beginning with the effusive encomia published in Italian newspapers on his death, it examines the reality behind these hyperbolic claims by asking three questions: 1) What were Braudel’s contributions to the study of history in general and Italian history in particular? 2) How did Braudel’s relationship with Italian scholars and Italian history create such a reputation that an academic historian had become a legend in his own time? 3) What remains of Braudel’s work and method over the past twenty-five years in Italy and beyond? A summary of Braudel’s theses and evaluations by leading historians suggest that while Braudel’s book La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II may have as many errors as insights, it remains alive as a source of inspiration for the history of early modern Italy, prior to the establishment of the nation state. By subordinating political history to all aspects of life through the investigative methodology of the social sciences and by changing the way we think about time, space, and subject matter in history, Braudel’s vision provides a point of departure both to look back at the historiographical tradition before the volume was first published in 1949 and again at its second edition in 1966, as well as to scan forward to the historiography it has spawned.

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