This chapter examines how French historians “dispose” their texts, that is, how they organize them as coherent wholes. Contrary to prevailing opinions, these texts do not always take the form of a narrative. Some are mapped out as synchronic cross-sections (“tableaux”), as dissections of problems (“analyses”), or as polemical discussions of existing studies (“metahistories”). Accounts of single events, in particular, rarely have a narrative structure. After briefly recounting the facts, the historian devotes most of the study to explaining their significance—what they reveal about the conflicts and attitudes that characterized the period. This chapter also surveys the debates historians have conducted about issues of “disposition,” assaying the meaning that well-established historians like Veyne, Chartier, and Hartog may confer to “narrative” when they claim that histories necessarily fall under this mode, while they themselves do not resort to storytelling in their works.
Keywords: disposition, narrative, tableau, analysis, metahistory, storytelling, Paul Veyne, Roger Chartier, François Hartog