On one who has had but a passing acquaintance with history, this book had a profound and deep impact. First one learned about the author who was considered 'a prince among historians'. He belonged to a group of French scholars called Annales, School of Historians. In their quest for 'total history', this school included geography, climatology, physics, biology, religions, mythology, navigation and much else, not forgetting literature and the cinema.
To Braudel, events were 'crests of foam that the tides of history carry on their strong back.' He asserts: 'men do not make history; rather, it is history - above all - that makes men and thereby absolves them of blame.' Elaborating on this theme, Braudel asks further, 'Is it possible somehow to convey simultaneously both the conspicuous history which holds our attention by its continual and dramatic changes - and the other, submerged history almost silent and always discreet, virtually unsuspected by its observers or participants, which is little touched by the obstinate erosion of time?'
One is thus prepared to enter the arena of great debates of human existence. Once feels at once close to ageless questions and invited to ponder on human life and the lives of the collective in a manner which takes a far view, but yet does not lack patience and care to register the complexity involved. I was reminded of one of Krishnaji's statements: 'The long vision contains the near but the near vision does not contain the distant.'
While reading this book one is constantly made aware of how beautifully the author carries insights. In fact the book is a series of insights which make one stop often and reflect, the mind recognises the depth of a statement and strains to catch its full import. Reading Braudel's magnificent book, one feels one is being truly educated.