Food and the Annales School

Sydney Watts

in The Oxford Handbook of Food History

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199729937
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Food and the Annales School

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Food history emerged as a serious academic pursuit in the wake of a major reorientation in the field of history led by French scholars of the Annales School. Established in 1929 by French historians Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre, the Annales in 1929 was a ground-breaking journal dedicated to historical and contemporary research in economics and sociology. Although the Annales is not solely responsible for the rise of social history, its founders undertook ambitious studies focusing on historical standards of living, material lives, demographic trends, and mentalities of pre-modern peoples, a research interest which typically addressed the history of agriculture and problems of subsistence. This article explores how the Annales School has shaped the field of food history by looking at three significant"moments": agricultural patterns and cognitive frameworks of pre-modern societies, food production and food consumption as a foundation of social and economic life, and the history of cuisine through a cultural approach to taste and identity. The article concludes by assessing the influence of the Annales School on the history of food outside of France.

Keywords: Annales School; France; Marc Bloch; Lucien Febvre; food; food history; food consumption; food production; cuisine; taste

Article.  9816 words. 

Subjects: History ; Methods and Historiography

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