“Faced with the dangers that threaten our societies, the message of Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie remains relevant”


Lhe tributes paid to Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie clearly reflect the place that this great scholar held for more than half a century. Often it is his pioneering role in the emergence of a historical approach to the climate that is highlighted: current events do justice to his obstinacy in having the climate recognized as a crucial subject. But it is difficult to see the coherence of this considerable work: rural communities and agrarian systems, family and demography, cultural and physical anthropology, religious practices and heresies, state apparatuses and court societies, climate, the list of his research themes does not seems to leave out no aspect of half a millennium of European history.

His most cited books, The history of climate since the year 1000 (Flammarion, 1967), Montaillou, Occitan village, from 1294 to 1324 (Gallimard, 1975), The Carnival of Novels (Gallimard, 1979) or The Platter Century (Fayard, 3 vols., 1997-2006), are like summits isolated from each other. It is undoubtedly in the two volumes of Historian’s territory (Gallimard, 1973 and 1978) that the route appears most clearly: under this beautiful title, where the historian is both a ruler and an explorer of the territory, short texts and in-depth articles extending from 1959 to 1978 shed light on the researcher’s journey. Without the word interdisciplinarity being present everywhere, dialogue with other sciences plays a large part. It is also a key to understanding his academic career, in particular his choice to join the Paris-VII University in 1971, the only one among those created after 1968 to place among its objectives the common work of all social science disciplines. and natural sciences.

The result did not live up to his expectations, and in 1973 he joined the Collège de France. This interest, in particular for the climate, is old: his first publication on harvest dates dates back to 1957 and the first chapter of the thesis on The Farmers of Languedoc (Flammarion, 1966) is entitled “Climate Suggestions”. All the themes which will be those of the great book of 1967 [L’Histoire du climat depuis l’an mil] are present there, with the same rigor in the interpretation of the data and the same concern for comparison. The following chapter, “Plants and techniques of the South”, is a dazzling variation on the “plant civilization” : the multiplicity of food plants (artichokes, melons, eggplants) and g varieties which migrate across Mediterranean Europe, the plants of the Americas (corn, peppers, beans), which follow, or compete with, other plants coming from Eastern or Southern (durum wheat, alfalfa, sainfoin). It is difficult to understand why this first part, entitled “Field of Forces”, essential to the balance of the work, was not retained for the pocket edition in 1977.

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