History of Mentalities - Theory and Methodology of History

History of mentalities

The history of mentalities develops as a heterogeneous trend within the framework of the so-called New Historical Science first in France, then in various variants is spreading in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, and, finally, acquires its supporters among domestic specialists. At the same time, only the French variant of this history was distinguished by a certain continuity and consistency in thematic and methodological preferences.

It is believed that the term mentality became regularly used by historians after the French anthropologist and ethnologist Lucien Levy-Bruhl (1857-1939) used it to characterize primitive thinking. Not perceiving the experienced knowledge as a stimulus for the subsequent activity, such thinking remained irrational, far from the consciousness of modern man.

The interest in the mental attitudes and constructions of various epochs was also predetermined by the trends in the development of Western humanitarian knowledge of the late 19th century. - the early XX century, characteristic primarily of the works of historians such as Burkhardt (1818-1897) and Karl Lamprecht (1856-1915), as well as the founder of classical sociology Durkheim.

In the beginning of the last century, under the "mentality" understood primarily the collective systems of the worldview, as well as the behavior defined by it. In some cases, it was a question of special stable forms of spiritual development, the meaning of which was conveyed by meanings and shades characteristic of romantic historiography ("national spirit" or "national soul"). They emphasized the diversity of ways of functioning of culture, determined by the special emotional predisposition of generators of all elements.

After the term mentality was perceived by the leaders of the New Historical Science Blok and Febvre, in its meanings the shades associated with the characteristics of various forms of manifestation of the "psychological reality of the past" intensified. In this sense, the very understanding of mentality first began to come close to certain aspects of collective (social) psychology, and then it was completely absorbed by it.

Fevr, who most consistently used this term, designated to them the totality of the separate categories of perception, comprehension and expression that determined the structure of individual and collective human experience. Considering the totality of these categories as a means (tools) of organization and coding of cultural complexes of individual groups or individuals, he called for the inclusion in the research field of the historian of the language realities, affects, and technologies that color this experience in unique colors and semi-shades. The vision of the mentality in this sense remained unshakable for him and implied along with the stable elements a mobile potential, conditioned by historical reality and constantly renewed potential.

Researchers who somehow shared the views of Fevre on possible prospects for studying mentality, sought to either strengthen or weaken one of the aspects of the definition he proposed. The approaches to the mentality (or, more often, to collective psychology) characteristic of his German colleagues are very indicative in this respect.

So, Hubsrtus Tellsnbach meant by the mentality of the "set of representations, behavioral practices and reactions", the peculiarity of which was their unconscious character in many respects. Ernst Shulin, clarifying the approach of Fevra, drew attention to the prevalence in mental settings of specific ethical and cognitive codes that determined the forms and ways of thinking and sensory experience characteristic for certain epochs. Volker Szllin pointed to the "deep-seated sense of the structure of collective comprehension and explanation of reality" . František Graus, one of the most famous German specialists in this field, believed that the mentality is "operating systems, sometimes contradictory, but always well-structured, which act as one of the most important factors determining the actions, feelings and thinking of people within society" ; .

In these definitions of mentality, the subject of research in this direction was gradually concretized.

Supporters of the history of mentalities tend, first, to reconstruct and study psychological and emotional representations, as well as ideas that are characteristic of certain historical periods or more widely - epochs; secondly, they are interested in the behavior of an individual or social groups as a whole, conditioned by these representations.

Fevra's research, which played a significant role in the development of modern studies of mentality, remained until the 1960s. on the periphery of the thematic preferences of French historiography. The changes began after Duby and Mandra, backed by their younger counterparts (Le Goff, André Bürgier and Mark Ferro), criticized the "Annals" economic history of Braudel. As is known, the direction developed under the influence of this historian studied primarily the material life of society, paying due attention to the history of everyday life, to its individual elements, but neglecting the psychological component of the process.

Neroiramma put forward by these scientists not only aimed at defining new frontiers in the study of mental processes of different historical epochs (mainly the Middle Ages and early Modern times), but also suggested a certain rapprochement with the works of those specialists who continued to orient themselves on identifying special elements in this way called a great historical duration.

On the one hand, the new frontiers were determined by the methodological potential of the works of Fevr himself. On the other hand, the attitude toward semi-conscious notions, the norms of behavior and practices of collective and individual action that corresponded to them, was significantly rethought.

Researchers have increasingly drawn attention to a certain gap that existed between the mental predestination and the behavior of a particular person or a particular group as a whole. Such actions still depended on norms, patterns and values ​​that were recognized in a particular society as generally accepted, but their compulsion was perceived with certain limitations. In the focus increasingly appeared phenomena in which thinking as it merged with the behavior, forming a single complex.

This view of the very mentality and the conditions for its implementation presupposed a well-known systematization, or, as Bürger wrote, "inventory" all images, values, as well as the very concepts with which she expressed herself. The analysis should have been motivated by the factors and mechanisms that create the mentality itself. Particular attention should be paid to the affects (passions) characteristic of the period under study. At the same time, their general cultural context remained important.

The subject of studying the history of mentalities should be the periodicity (special algorithms) in the development of mental processes, the history of ideas, images, myths, archetypes, other kinds of values.

thematic pictures

Also We Can Offer!

Other services that we offer

If you don’t see the necessary subject, paper type, or topic in our list of available services and examples, don’t worry! We have a number of other academic disciplines to suit the needs of anyone who visits this website looking for help.

How to ...

We made your life easier with putting together a big number of articles and guidelines on how to plan and write different types of assignments (Essay, Research Paper, Dissertation etc)