French History and Its Manuals
Before looking at the ways contemporary French historians write up their materials, it might be useful to go over the instructions they have received during their apprenticeship. Concretely, it might be productive to examine the manuals available to them at the beginning of their careers, setting the rules for conducting and then textualizing their research in the form of articles, books, or other types of writing. Admittedly, historians who have secured a place in the profession do not (or no longer) need to strictly follow the guidelines they had to abide by when they were working on their dissertations; they may even flout them, as some members of the corporation seem to enjoy doing. It remains that didactic works are worth investigating. Indeed, their presence does not point only to the students’ assumed lack of technical competence, which should be remedied as early as possible. More deeply, it tells about an ingrained disciplinary inquietude: anxious to mark out their territory, historians feel they must inform prospective colleagues about the conventions of research and writing they will have to obey. In this regard manuals do more than provide directions; they inscribe the way the historical community perceives itself, as well as the image of its exigencies that it intends to bestow on the next generation. I will thus begin by reviewing some of the pedagogical handbooks that have been available to the French historical community, going from a classic of the late nineteenth century to a few texts published in the early 2000s....