chapter
4 Pages

Introduction

Mentalités, as a society’s contextual belief system expressed in collective representations (mythologies and symbols), are one of the well-known key concepts within the French Annales school of history, conceptualised at the time of Marc Bloch’s and Lucien Febvre’s founding of the journal Annales d’histoire économique et sociale in 1929. The Annales’ paradigm was introduced to the discipline of archaeology in the 1980s, when archaeology was (re)defi ned as cultural history under the banner of post-processual archaeology (cf. Hodder 1986, 1987; Hodder and Hutson 2003; Bintliff 1991, 2004; Knapp 1992; Morris 2000; Andrén 1998c; Moreland 2001; Harding 2005; Thomas et al. 2006). Ideologies, world views, collective systems of belief, etc. became key concepts for understanding a society from the inside, as Ian Hodder argued for in the early days of the post-processual era (1986). In this approach, as in the Annales approach, mentalités at the same time refl ect and are able to transform human life. In a process of mutual feedback between historical processes and what people and groups of people actually think and believe, premodern societies are structured and over time gradually transformed. In the Annales approach to history, historical time is analytically structured in three contemporaneous groups of processes, operating at different wavelengths of time, or durations:

the history of the short term, that is, the history of events, individuals etc.; the history of the medium term, that is, conjunctures such as social, economic history, demographic cycles, world view and ideologies (mentalités); and the history of the long term, that is, structures of long duration (la longue durée) such as the history of civilisations, of peoples, technology and – not least – persistent world views and ideologies (mentalités) (Bintliff 1991: 6 f.).