Primeiramente, como surgiu o seu interesse pela História e em qual momento da sua vida o Sr. optou por cursá-la? Como surgiu a História Cultural em sua obra?


As a small boy growing up just after the Second World War, I liked playing with toy soldiers. Someone gave me a book for adults called Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World. I found the text difficult but the diagrams of battles were ideal for the toy soldiers. I began to take an interest in military history, especially medieval armour and weapons and 19th-century uniforms. I became especially interested in the Middle Ages – Gothic cathedrals, romances of chivalry, heraldry, illuminated manuscripts (on display in the British Museum), medieval chronicles, etc. When I applied to Oxford, aged 17, I still thought I was going to be a medievalist, but then I discovered the Renaissance. Reading Jacob Burckhardt’s book on the culture of the Italian Renaissance was my discovery of culltural history, leading to my Culture and Society in Renaissance Italy (1972), which one reviewer called ‘the Burckhardt of the 1970s’ (actually, the book is still in print).



Como o Sr. analisa o impacto dos Annales na sua produção intelectual?


As a student at Oxford, I read works by Bloch, Braudel and Febvre (I think in that order) as well as new issues of  the journal Annales, and I became an enthusiast for ‘total history’ and especially the history of mentalities. When I was writing the book on the Renaissance, which was a social as well as a cultural history, I remember asking myself from time to time, How would an Annales historian approach this subject? None of them had, unless one includes Francastel, an unorthodox art historian who published something in the journal.



Uma reflexão que o Sr. propõe é pensar na História como gênero literário. Por que e como fazê-lo?


This is really an old idea, going back at least as far as Thucydides, who wrote history as tragedy long before Hayden White suggested ‘emplotment’. Another favourite historian of mine, Francesco Guicciardini, wrote a history of Italy in the 16th century that was also emplotted as tragedy, following the French invasion of Italy in 1494. Personally, I am most attracted to history in the ironic mode (another of White’s 4 categories, which should be at least 5, including epic). In this respect I follow Burckhardt. I would really like to be able to write history in the manner of Chekhov, producing a narrative that is comic  and tragic at the same time, but this would work better for political or maybe social hisotry rather than cultural history.



A ideia do gênero literário poderia ser expandida para outras áreas, como Antropologia, Economia, Direito, dentre outras?


Not only can be but has been. In anthropology, Clifford Geertz in particular was well aware of producing a literary work, while some of his ex-students contributed to a book, Writing Culture, that stressed the literary aspect of books on anthropology. The  comparison between Malinowski and Conrad (both Poles, living at the same time and  exploring worlds beyond Europe) was once bold but has become commonplace. I am not so sure about economics, but in the case of law, there is increasing interest in narrative and its conventions, a new approach to the testimonies of witnesses.



Como a História pode contribuir para a sociedade através das escolas, mas, também das universidades (onde outros cursos possuem disciplinas de História, como Arquitetura, Economia, Medicina e Matemática)?


In the 19th century, courses on the natural sciences usually included a history of the subject, abandoned when there was too much geology, physics, etc to teach. The history of science then turned into a speciality with courses of its own, part of the increasing division of labour inside as well as outside universities. I think that, for instance, courses on the history of architecture, given by architects for architects, make an important contribution to understanding, but this internalist approach (a history of problems and solutions) needs to be  complemented by an externalist approach by social or cultural historians, linking what happened in architecture to what happened outside it in a given period.



No contexto atual, qual a importância da divulgação científica? Na sua opinião, no que ela poderia vir a ser aprimorada?


In the case of the natural sciences, popularization via television is obviously important, while in some universities, chairs have been founded in ‘The Public Understanding of Science’. In the case of history, some leading scholars have shown themselves able to write for the general public as well as for specialists – Simon Schama, for instance, Carlo Ginzburg, or in the most recent generation of Annales historians, Patrick Boucheron. Things can always be improved, but looking at the disseminators, my view is optimistic. Looking at the disseminated, the readers and viewers, I am not so sure, especially in the  case of a generation more familiar with smartphones than with books.



O Sr. tem alertado sobre a importância do polímata. Assim, poderia nos falar sobre a relevância deles e da interdisciplinaridade para a sociedade em geral e, também, para os circuitos acadêmicos e para o próprio mercado de trabalho?


In an age of increasing specialization, we need polymaths more than ever, because they are the only individuals in a position to see connections between discoveries, problems  and solutions in different disciplines. The problem today is that there are fewer social niches for them than before. The job market has no place for them. But many polymaths have begun in one discipline and gradually extended their interests to others.

There are interdisciplinary courses in some universities (including the University of Sussex, where I began my teaching career in 1962, though the interdisciplinary project was abandoned there around the year 2000). I still believe that the best form of education in a university is to combine the intensive study of one discipline, the ‘major’ subject, with courses in other disciplines, preferably ones that connect with the  major. In the case of certain subjects, such as law and medicine, there may be a conflict between this ideal and the need for professional training, but most employers want graduates who are adaptable, whatever their subject at university. When I used to write references for my students, I emphasized, where possible, that they were quick to learn new things, and this kind of recommendation seemed to work.



Para finalizarmos, alguma projeção relativa ao que será a pesquisa acadêmica nas próximas décadas? Há, ao menos na História, a perspectiva de alguma renovação como foram os Annales?


Today, we see a variety of new approaches to history of which the best established and most important is surely the history of the environment. Where the Annales historians focussed and still focus on relations with the social sciences, historians of the environment need to know about natural sciences – geology, climatology, botany, etc. Other new approaches include digital history and non-human history. I don’t see any one centre dominating the scene like the Annalistes in Paris in the age of Braudel. History – like the world – is now polycentric!

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