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Category: History

K.E. Labruss as founder of the French quantitative history

UDK 930.1 (44)


N.V. Trubnikova

Tomsk Polytechnic University of E-mail:

The contribution of the talented French economist and historian Kamil-Ernest Labruss to formation of the world famous direction of researches of the French historiography of the 20th century - quantitative, or quantitative history is considered.

Historiography, methodology of history and humanities, quantitative history.

Economic and social history of an era of triumph of the French historical thought was often identified with the movement of "Annals" and Fernán Brodel, having underestimated the person who was directly involved in development of the concept "longue duree" and also armed with method and resulted the whole generation of the French historians who formed subsequently the basis of "the third Annals" in success. Since 1946 in Sorbonne Kamil-Ernest La-bruss who significantly changed for quarter of the century of the student teaching a relief of historiographic space in France directed department of the economic history which is earlier headed by Marc Bloch.

Modern researchers often write in the generalizing works about Brodelya-Labruss's paradigm, thereby acquainting the last with the movement of "Annals". However, despite considerable experience of cooperation and undoubted similarity of many positions [1], Brodel steadily criticized "a labrus-owl model" for commitment to prospect of a political sobytiynost in the history. So, in article of 1958 he wrote about Labruss: "Its report "As revolutions are born?" on the International congress in Paris in 1948 seeks to connect... an economic patetizm of short time (new style) with a political patetizm (very old style), a patetizm of revolutionary days. Here to you again short time and up to the neck" [2. P. 750].

The inspired reader of "Annals" from the very beginning, Labruss remained long time outside the history of the magazine in which it was not published till 1940th. However he received the position of the head of researches in the Fourth section of the Higher practical school in 1938 thanks to Marc Bloch's support. According to Maurice Aimar, Ernest Labruss who was keeping aloof and not having the eminent mentor with all originality of his approach was not appreciated by founders of "Annals". L. Febvre "opened" for himself Labruss late enough, in 1947, having admitted him to collective of the Sixth section. But the head of "Annals" "relied on Brodel, despite Marc Bloch's doubts. Neither that, nor another felt what should be put for La-bruss: people can be mistaken, even the greatest. Labruss and Brodel were both soon

are recognized: they also understood that they are designed to divide the power in 1950 — the 60th" [3. River 11].

Ernest Labruss's fate in the history was absolutely atypical. The journalist and the lawyer by profession, he did not study at the École Normale Supérieure (which was traditionally considered as best "smithy" of humanitarian shots and failed on aggregation on economy twice. Labruss began studying history before war of 1914, was Alphonse Olar's pupil and wrote the diploma about the Revolution stories. But his political addictions brought it into journalism (to cooperation with Yuma-nite and Popyuler), then into economy. Only a gap with KPF in 1924 Labrussa forced to send power of the intelligence to scientific research. About it Fernán Brodel said as follows: "I can tell it to Ernest Labruss: he deprived of us the second Jean Jores. A story benefited from it" [4. River 142].

In 1932 he defended the dissertation on economy at faculty of the right under the leadership of Albert Af-talion about the movement of the prices and income in France of the 19th century [5], based on studying administrative statistics of the Old Regime and Francois Simian's method. The last, through Labruss's interpretation, gave an impetus to development of the economic history associated with school of "Annals".

Contrary to the existing cliche, economic history had no particular problems of an institutionalization in the history also earlier, in the last decades 19th century recognized economists began to be engaged in it: Emil Levasser, the author of works on history of the French population and working class and also Albert Aftalion who published a set of compositions on stories of economic crises in France. Under the influence of these works some historians, such as Philip Saniak, tried to enter statistical approaches into a research. However these attempts failed as in general quantitative technicians were considered as contradicting a historical method [6. River 66].

During this period history was perceived as hermeneutical, the context science demanding a past research "on traces". Statistical approach, on the contrary, is based on abstraction work, creation of certain "pressing", formation

uniform factual series. Besides, there were serious doubts (expressed, in particular, by Charles Seniobos) in reliability of a source - those administrative categories and calculations that were created by Services of the general statistics of France. It was necessary to consider with big flexibility of feature of various social environments, regions, eras, etc.

The adherent of social history, Henri Oz shared completely this point of view [7]. According to it, statistical methods are lawful in economy, but in the history with its long-term perspective the accident of circumstances dominates over economic life. As itself Oz was also a legislator of a method in the field of economic history up to the end of the 1930th, it was necessary to wait for change of research generations for introduction of the new research program - the Labrussa program.

Wrote about the ancestor of this program - Francois Simian - disproportionately a little, considering all extent of his influence on development of social sciences in France [8]. Professor of National conservatory of arts and crafts, Collezh de Frans, the President of Statistical society of Paris, Francois Simian devoted the talent of the economist to a problem of income of employees, having generalized it in the main work - "Salary, social evolution and money. Experience of the experimental theory of the salary" [9].

In parallel it continued epistemological polemic with philosophers-" by spiritualists", denying a possibility of social science. It induced it to prove that the experimental method is applicable to social sciences. At the front the economic theory it opposed the doctrine to abstract mathematics, standing up for the economy open for history and sociology. In a dispute with historians Simian was engaged in justification of quantitative methods when studying the past.

Simian fought against he called "an explanation through a successful example" which pushes most of historians to postulate, never proving, representativeness of an incident which they studied. Statistical methods allow to make the present experiments, to calculate frequencies, coincidence coefficients thanks to which the researcher is capable to establish the relations of universal forms, the author assured.

It supported the theoretical arguments with own empirical researches on history of money and the salary in France. Their general idea can be reduced to the fact that for the 19-20th centuries the income of employees grew parallel to increase in profits in economy that Simian connected with development of currency means, in particular, with opening of gold mines in America and South Africa. But in this process he found the cyclic movements alternating pe-

rioda of prosperity (phase A) and recession (phase B). Si-mian came to a conclusion that the economic crisis of the 1930th happened because of overlaying of tactical crisis and change of a cycle (change of phase A with phase B) that is comparable with the moment of similar crisis of the last quarter of the 19th century

Exactly here we can find the well-known "brodelevsky" gradation of times for the first time: movements of "the average duration" (phases A and B which form twenty-year cycles), and tactical elements (short time) fit into movements of "the big duration" of long-term raising of salaries and the prices. Simian showed indissoluble communication of the economic facts and their social and political context. So, fluctuations of the prices and salaries can influence social requirements of workers and vice versa, strikes of workers can have economic results in the form of production rise in price.

From the moment of creation of "Annals" Lucian Febvre tried to acquaint historians with a fruitful thought of Simian, however efforts were vain: too abstract language of the economist to them was unclear. The historian Georges Lefebvre not without the bases accused Simian of absence of the person in his researches, in love for mathematical calculations, in preference of nominal salary to salary real, in refusal to consider cyclic and seasonal fluctuations in economy. A little inclined to compromises, Simian did not make any efforts for an explanation of the method for historians and refused, finally, offers of cooperation with "Annals".

Without Ernest Labruss who executed difficult effort of "translation", Simian's works would not play a role in the history. Knowing language of economists and profoundly studied Simian's thought, including, attending his seminars at the Higher practical school, Labruss could turn this method on advantage to the research.

However, on his memoirs, historians frostily apprehended this work. "We - in 1932, "Annals" only began. There is no cohort of historians with good economic culture yet", - he remembered in an interview of 1980 [10]. But gradually, and, in no small measure, thanks to Lefe-vr's participation, Labruss's work began to draw attention of professionals.

As one would expect, it encountered severe criticism Henri Oz who reproached the author for excess credibility to old regime administrative sources. Lefebvre insisted that the thesis enriches a research of the causes of the French Revolution and that Labruss investigates the plot as the true historian, raising specific historical questions. Even if he used data which can be consolidated in a series, they are capable to enrich "the facts purely event as speaks Simian which... statistics avoids" [6. River 70]. Thus, priver-

the zhennost of a sobytiynost of "founding father" of the French quantitative history became at that moment a decisive argument that Labruss was apprehended in community of historians.

Acceptance of the Labruss method was promoted also by its thematic choice: The French revolution took the central place in researches. Its purpose was to connect events in the long term, to investigate structures in their evolution and to find to a revolutionary rupture of times a scientific explanation. Its work from the very beginning was historical: Labruss did not look for the reasons of economic movements, and defined their historical - social and political - consequences in an event outline. He sought to open and put under the strict control exercised experimentally, new sources and so that also the person did not disappear from his works. "In a word, - representatives of modern "Annals" Jean-Yves Grenie and Bernard Lepti summarized, - "a difference between Simian and Labruss... consisted in two bents of spirit: one more abstract, and, perhaps, more philosophical... other more concrete". Almost did not discuss Labruss's thesis because "the project of the economist remained a little acceptable for historians which had neither sufficient tools, nor rudiments of acquaintance to these questions" [11. River of 1341].

Its program of a vydelyalyal the repeated phenomena to find in them relationships of cause and effect: "repeated has more human value here, than accidental. In economic history, unlike what is observed in other fields of history, everything what is important - it is repeated", - Labruss in the thesis on the story published in 1944 about crisis of the French economy wrote to the prerevolutionary period [12. R 171-172].

This research made the significant contribution to development of a former subject - the causes of the French revolution. Arguing with Jores and Matyez and joining Mishla, Labruss insists that revolutionary shocks became a revolt of beggars. The leading role them was played by the economic crisis strengthened by a crop failure which caused increase in prices for grain. Relying on statistics of the 18th century, the historian developed digital series about the changes in price, harvests, manufactured goods, trade. In response to traditional reproaches in unauthenticity of these sources, Labruss was protected by references to reliability of statistical methods, to the law of "compensation of errors", to tests of coincidence. In societies where the rural economy dominates, the crop failure, extreme increase in prices for bread can really provoke crisis. Only in process of development of economy other, industrial type of crisis as crisis of 1929, with other complex of causes and effects grows ripe.

the Model was

effective for more than two generations of young historians. "All French historical school is the Labruss school",

>- Pierre Chonu emphasized. "Labruss's thought is so incorporated in our practice of history, processing of materials and conceptualization of a discourse that... the source was forgotten: she became indistinguishable because she won" [13. River 21-22].

Since 1955 when the congress of historical sciences in Rome took place, Labruss, without breaking off with economic history, sought to reorient the model in line with aspirations of history social, joining initial orientations of "Annals" more obviously. Its report "New ways to history of the western bourgeoisie in the 18th and 19th centuries (1700-1850)" then gained development during the well-known colloquiums in Saint-Cloud in the 1960th where other influential historian, the supporter of "institutional" approach Rolan Munye becomes his main opponent.

To the Marxist, "economic" approach protected by Labruss, Sobul and Domar, Munye opposed the fact that the social hierarchy in the 17th century cannot be reduced to professional works or to volumes of private means, - it still is based on the system of estates, but not economy classes.

The discussion in Saint-Cloud allowed Labruss to express a quintessence of the method. In fact, it developed there vision of history which coincides with a subtitle of "Annals" - "economies-societies-civilizations". Labruss with enthusiasm spoke about a modern history which goes hand in hand with the updated economic history and the developing sociology. And object of this story

>- besides studying social groups and their communications,

>- the research of interactions between three main levels of human life is: economic, social and mental [14. River 4]. The impulse to development most often arises in economy and is transferred to the sphere social though also the opposite effect is occasionally observed. The movement of updating, as a rule, comes from economy, and social shows it resistance. Further reaction is transferred to the mental sphere where processes of "braking" of an innovation are strongest as "the mentality of the environment changes more slowly, than the environment". The mentality is most conservative, in this sphere the greatest prove history duration and therefore Labruss invites historians from "movements" to turn facing "resistance", from infrastructure to superstructure, from basis to control. Consecutive and cumulative studying all three levels of human life is also La-brussova a matrix, it is a matrix of "Annals".

The Brodelya-Labrussa model, having endured a triumph phase, was exposed to severe criticism at a boundary of the 1970-80th and later it was buried in temporary oblivion. Labruss died in 1988, shortly before

celebrations of the two-hundredth anniversary of Revolution, and in the new "Critical dictionary of the French revolution" any reference to its works was not placed. Until recently such innovative, its approach, appear, disappeared from a historical research: the ideological environment changed, influence of Marxism on social sciences decreased, serial history was exhausted.

New, though not general, interest in "Labruss's paradigm" woke up in the late eighties, starting with already mentioned Jean-Yves Grenie and Bernard Lepti's article "Historical experience. Apropos To. - E. Labrussa" [11]. Descendants were attracted by many qualities of the master not inherent in other participants and fellow travelers of the movement of "Annals". He was an inventor "very French historiography at the choice of the object, on the entry into an institutional and university national context and on the role of the conductor for many generations of historians of hexarutting" [3. River 16], - the author of the intellectual biography of Labruss M.N. Borgetti wrote.

Grenie and Lepti called the purpose of the appeal to his creativity need "to force Labruss to play against Labruss and to find in the first compositions of the master" for a relocator of methodological focus. Authors noted scrupulous attention of Labruss not to the results of the research which are (very in details stated), and to a method which allowed to reach them.

Interfacing the general and applied methodology, K.E. Labruss, unlike other representatives of social history, paid reflections about a method much attention. However applied aspects - technology of creation and processing of series - hid a fundamental basis. It managed to reach at the same time a set of the purposes: to offer the explanatory scheme of the French revolution, to establish the movement of the prices and income in the course of the 18th century and to provide unity of the project, to give to complexity of tactical movements sense, an order and value [11. R 1343]. However the historian did not explain the approach, avariciously referring to founders of this equipment of Aftalion resorting to an experimental method and Simian who established norms of his use in the history.

A merit of this widely extended research practice there was a change of the concept of a historic fact. Experimental history assumes its scrupulous design. Where positivistic history looked for the "true" fact, a condition of the proclaimed objectivity, experimental quantitative history allocates the fact "clean" which on -

zvolyat an object design, allows reproduction of, allocates the searched explanatory factor. The immutable sequence was implemented: a historic fact - the experimental fact - the searched explaining factor. For all that all links of a chain, according to K.E. Labruss, had to keep some internal autonomy, organically being located in own historical environment.

As a result of association of the "clean" facts cleaned from a peel of accidental circumstances and adapted to an experiment object a stable series is established, all factors which can shake its uniformity are neutralized. This feature of "dedindividuali-zation" gave to history a basis for model criticism when it was already reused and fairly simplified by imitators. Meanwhile K.E. Labruss warned against danger of reductions in a historical research and insisted on a careful kontekstualization of each series.

In itself, such task is extremely difficult: "Distinction between qualitative and quantitative is interfaced by a great number of oppositions: visibility - reality, descriptive - zatsifrovanny, the comment - statistics..., what assumes quite flexible vision of information opportunities of a source and their processing. This flexibility and this interactive use - figures do not speak (or speak badly) without their context, qualitative depends on quantitative and vice versa - breaks off with quite cruel opposition which sometimes characterizes the epistemological debate on these questions" [3. R 167]. Alas, in the well-known discussions about reliability of social and economic history opened by Lawrence Stone and Carlo Ginzburg who in many respects defined the modern directions of researches comical determination of figure and quantitative prevailed [15, 16].

Reaktualization of K.E. Labruss's creativity is called in many respects by search of scientific legitimacy in the history and at the same time - the happened understanding of the fact that there are always borders behind which any model becomes unacceptable. In a sense, K.E. Labruss's example can serve as a model of methodological creation of scientific model, worthy imitations. It approves the requirement of objectivity and thorough creation of a system of proofs where both the accurate principle of demonstration of material, and a continuous communication between statement of a problem and its decision, and aspiration to use of clear terminology is looked through [3. R 265].


1. Braudel F., Labrousse E. (dir.) L’Histoire économique et sociale de la France. - Paris: PUF, 1976-1982. - 6 tomes.
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3. Aymard M. Introduction//Borghetti M.N. L’oeuvre d’Ernest Labrousse. Genese d’un modele d’histoire economique. - Paris: Ed. de l’EHESS, 2005. - 299 p.
4. Goubert P. Un parcours d’historien. Souvenirs 1915-1995. - Paris: Fayard, 1996. - 315 p.
5. Labrousse E. Esquisse du mouvement des prix et des revenus en France au XVIIIe siecle. - Paris: Dalloz, 1933. - 2 vol. Reed. - Paris: Ed. des archives contemporaines, 1984.
6. Noiriel G. Qu’est-ce que l’histoire contemporaine? - Paris: Hachette, 1998. - 272 p.
7. Hauser H. (dir.) Recherches et Documents sur l’histoire des prix en France de 1500 a 1800. - Paris: Picard, 1936.
8. Gillard L. et Rosier M. (ed.) Francois Simiand (1873-1935). Sociologie, histoire, economie. - Paris: Editoions des archives contemporaines, 1996. - 242 p.
9. Simiand F. Le Salaire, l’evolution sociale et la monnaie. Essai de theorie experimentale du salaire. - Paris: Alcan, 1932. - 3 Vol.
10. Labrousse E. Entretien avec Ernest Labrousse//Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales. - 1980. - No. 32/33. - P. 111-127.
11. Grenier J. - Y., Lepetit B. L’experience historique. A propos de C. - E. Labrousse//Annales ESC. - 1989. - No. 6. - P. 1337-1360.
12. Labrousse E. La crise de l’economie francaise a la fin de l’Ancien Regime et au debut de la Revolution. - Paris: PUF, 1944. - 3 vol.
13. Chaunu P. Conjoncture, structures, systemes de civilization//Conjoncture economique, structures sociales. Hommage an Ernest Labrousse. - Paris: Mouton, 1974. - 547 p.
14. Labrousse E. (dir.) Histoire sociale: sources et methodes. - Paris: PUF, 1967. - 298 p.
15. Stone L. Retour au recit, ou reflections sur une nouvelle vieille histoire//Le Debat. - 1980. - No. 4. - P. 116-142.
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Arrived 30.04.2008

UDC 930.1 (44)


N.V. Trubnikova

Tomsk Polytechnic University of E-mail:

The author analyzes process of formation and characteristic features of development of the French quantitative history - one of the leading directions of researches of a historiography of the 20th century combining heritage of Marxism, model of the economic theory, methods of demography and specific technicians of work with historical sources.

Historiography, methodology of history and humanities, quantitative history.

The French quantitative history is presented by the whole group of the pupils of school of Ernest La-bruss who began the outstanding careers with writing of "regional" theses. Among them representatives of "Annals" Pierre Guber, Pierre Villar, Emmanuel Le Rua Ladyuri, Maurice Agyulon, Georges Dyubi, Pierre Chonu, Michel Vovel, Alain Corben and others.

The Marxism was the major conceptual scheme used by Labruss and his pupils. In the 1950th many historians identified the destiny with French Communist Party which political power very much promoted distribution of Marxism. As the joke, in the French historiography is retold history of examination in aggregation of 1952 in which young party members - Claude Meslian, Pierre Deillon, Jean Daughtry, Jeanne Nicol, Francois Fuhr, Robert Bonno, Jacques took part in the basic

Shamba, Denis Richet, Emmanuel Le Rua Ladyuri. During calculations of results, Fuhr and Shezno with humour commented that it was necessary to leave after all several places for the bourgeoisie.

Till 1960th the Marxism got into historical discipline through economic history, is frequent (but by no means not always) connecting in theses of the reference to K. Marx's political economy and "Annals". A characteristic example are Jean Bouvier's works about "The Lyons credit" or Pierre Vee-lara about Catalonia during an era of modern times dated by the beginning of the 1960th. Gradually borders of such "dual" history extended, moving from studying the "basic" historical bases - economic infrastructure, to "superlinear" - mental superstructure. Since 1970, the intellectual weekly of KPF "Le Nouvel Kritik" regularly published conversations with historians who at the same time acted

Deborah Allen
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