This chapter deals with “figures” in both senses of the term: numerical figures and figures of speech. Tacking stock of the procedures French historians employ to warrant the truthfulness of their accounts, it reviews the ways they refer to the archives using footnotes, draw at times on quantitative methods, and make use of iconographic documents. The chapter also considers historians’ misgivings, more specifically the ways they acknowledge the inescapably tentative and incomplete nature of their enterprise, either explicitly by means of comments, or implicitly through the use of quotation marks around terms, especially concepts, whose validity they wish to question (were there “classes” in the Middle Ages?). A whole section of the chapter is also devoted to figurative language, as French historians frequently turn to tropes, in particular to personification and metaphors from business and administration, to introduce their theses and conduct their descriptions (e.g., Braudel’s France as “worried and restless,” Corbin’s “management” of sexual desire).
Keywords: numerical figures, figures of speech, document, quantitative methods, footnote, quotation marks, concept, trope, metaphor, Fernand Braudel