Lucien Febvre and the study of religious history

Bruce E. Mansfield*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


There is a better and a worse way of discussing the methodology of a historian. The worse is to lay out his ideas on method in a purely abstract way, enlist him in a school and submit him to some pattern or other of the ‘history of history’. This is the easier way; it is attractive to undergraduates, not least because it can reduce the life’s work of a great and subtle mind to a few simple-and often ridiculous propositions. The better way is to follow him in the exploration of an actual historical landscape, to observe him at his first setting out and at the dusty work itself, to see what resources he can call on when the terrain is difficult. A historian of the resonance of Lucien Febvre deserves to be approached in this way. For nearly two generations he was a goad to fresh thought about the methods of historians and has left numerous methodological essays. But his force can be measured only in his true historical work, in his writings on the religious history of the sixteenth century. Many of his essays on this subject have been posthumously published in Au Coeur religieux du XVI esiecle (Paris, 1957). In this article we will proceed from a discussion of the quality and achievement of this work to consider the principles of method which made it possible.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-111
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Religious History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1960
Externally publishedYes


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