Posts Tagged ‘Fernand Braudel’

The legend of the great Fernand Braudel, one of my historiographical heroes, is that he completed his doctoral dissertation in his head while sitting in a prisoner-of-war camp in the Second World War, and that in the course of his captivity the core thesis was turned upside down: from a conventional study of the Mediterranean policy of Phillip II of Spain, to the now-familiar revolutionary vision of how the Mediterranean – its environment, its climate, its underlying structures – shaped and limited the reign of Phillip in ways of which he was barely conscious. (more…)

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At the top of my list of ‘projects I really wish I’d got around to finishing before it was too late’ is a piece on J.G. Ballard and historical time. I’m a massive Ballard fan, especially of his short stories, and I’ve always been struck by his concern with the human experience of time – explored above all by changing the things that we take for granted, such as when the earth ceases to rotate and it’s always early evening in Casablanca, or when the sleep trigger is artificially disabled in some experimental subjects, or when (for unknown reasons) people start to suffer from narcolepsy, their days getting ever shorter. Most striking – or maybe it’s just because it relates to my research interests in ecology – is his focus in the brilliant ‘The Voices of Time’ on the relation between human time and other times, not only geological time but cosmic time.


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