French historian, who died fighting with the Resistance in World War II.
Of French-Alsatian Jewish descent, Block was born in Lyons, where his father taught ancient history. He had moved to Paris, passed the necessary examinations, travelled widely, and taught in various lycées before ‘four years of fighting idleness’ interrupted his studies in 1914; for his activities during World War I he was admitted to the Légion d'honneur and awarded a Croix de Guerre. After acquiring his doctorate in 1920, he taught first in Strasbourg and from 1936 as professor of economic history in Paris.
Bloch's prodigious output, including probing reviews in the magazine Annales, which he co-founded with the historian Lucien Febvre in 1929, was as remarkable as the width of his interests, both in history, particularly comparative history, and in neighbouring disciplines. His first book, Les Rois thaumaturges (1924; translated as The Royal Touch, 1973), dealt with the healing attributes of kings. Later works included his two-volume work on feudal societies La Société féodale (1935; translated as Feudal Society, 1961); L'Étrange Défaite (1940; translated as Strange Defeat, 1949), an unforgettable essay on the fall of France, seen as a failure of character and of intelligence; and unfinished notes on history (1942–43), published and providing perhaps the best introduction to the ‘craft of the historian’. As brave in World War II as in World War I, Bloch joined the army, then the Resistance. He was tortured and killed by the Germans.
Subjects: Social Sciences — Contemporary History (Post 1945).