Torres-Hugon Vincent,
Gesture historian living history anthropologist,
Guide-lecturer with cultural tour operator CLIO.

Translated by Floriant Razafi

From gesture to science: When living history becomes indispensable.

     Just as for a long time the infantry was the “queen” of battles, military history was the “queen” of history as a science. As early as Herodotus and Thucydides, the “fathers” of history, the main announced subject of this discipline in the making was undoubtedly war, whether it be Herodotus’ Greco-Persian Wars:

    “By presenting his research to the public, Herodotus of Halicarnassus intends to preserve from oblivion the actions of men, to celebrate the great and wonderful deeds of the Greeks and Barbarians, and, regardless of all these things, to develop the motives which led them to make war against each other. » [1]  Introduction of: HERODOTE [HERODOTUS], (1985), L’enquête (Histories), Livres I à IV, transl. Andrée Barguet, Gallimard collection Folio, Paris

Or Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War:

    “Thucydides the Athenian recounted the various adventures of the Peloponnesian and Athenian wars; he set to work from the very beginning of the war, because he foresaw that it would be important and more memorable than the previous ones. His conjecture was based on the fact that both peoples had reached the height of their power. Moreover, he saw the rest of the Greek world either immediately siding with each other or meditating on doing so. This was the most tremendous shaking that stirred the Greek people, some of the Barbarians, and almost the whole human race. » [2]  Introduction of: THUCYDIDE [THUCYDIDE], (1966) Histoire de la guerre du Péloponnèse (History of the Peloponnesian War), vol.1, transl. Jean Capelle, Garnier Flammarion. 

     Thereafter, the interest in military history as an essential cause of the upheavals in the world of mankind did not deny itself, be it among the authors of the Roman period, throughout the medieval period, the Renaissance or the modern period. Finally, in contemporary times, military history – influenced by the prism of Romantic thought and often at the service of a national novel – only ceased to be the focus of attention with the arrival of the École des Annales, but only for a short time.  The methods and subjects of social, economic and cultural analysis put forward by this wave of prestigious historians led by March Bloch and Lucien Febvre were reinvested to analyse military history from a new angle (as did, for example, George Duby, a student of the École des Annales with “le dimanche de Bouvines”). The history of the body and techniques developed in the 1980s was no exception and is today the new focus of historians’ questions, which does not seem to deviate from the influence of Ares in their research. Perhaps because the Greeks were not mistaken, history is strewn with conflicts with multiple causes and consequences that impacted, impact and will always impact [3] Let us recall that among the Greeks war is a scourge of the same type as the natural disasters, diseases and other calamities that have unfortunate fallen on Earth as a result of the disobedient Pandora. men. The study of conflicts and its understanding enlightens present men of past acts and will enable them to avoid, if possible, future problems [4] Here we voluntarily follow the current of thought stemming from the Greek psyche..

     Historians are not the only ones with a passion for the military. Indeed, one of the most significant and visible aspects of living history (which we will soon define) is the predominant part of fighting within the latter. This fact exists since the first really important reconstructions of the second half of the XXth century which concerned in the English-speaking world the Civil War and Cromwell’s armed revolts.

“Masquerades that might well surprise, if not exasperate, any historian used to a very different relationship to the past! How to appreciate, how to understand these life-size role-playing games, these mischief with ruffs or farthingale? » [5] Maryline CRIVELLO, (2000) Comment on revit l’Histoire. Sur les reconstitutions historiques 1976-2000 (How we’re reliving history. On historical reconstitutions 1976-2000), La pensée de midi, n° 3, 2000, pp. 69

     This sentence, written in 2000 by a historian by training, Maryline Crivello, perfectly expresses the conflicting relationships between living history and the scientific world. Indeed, often seen as masquerades, carnival shows where history is only a pretext, the actions of living history as defined by Audrey Tuaillon Demesy, that is to say “a cultural activity that encompasses both (historical) reconstruction and Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA)  “ [6] Audrey TUAILLON DEMESY,(2013) “La re-création du passé : enjeux identitaires et mémoriels, approche socio-anthropologique de l’histoire vivante médiévale”(The re-creation of the past: identity and memory issues, socio-anthropological approach to medieval living history), Besançon, Presses universitaires de Franche-Comté, p.22 , are poorly perceived by academic historians.

     However, a closer look at the examples of “historical re-enactment” and “living history” cited in the same article reveals that there is in fact an obvious confusion made by the historian between what belongs to living history and what does not, namely mainly historical evocations and large-scale performances. The purpose of these types of actions, unlike living history, is not to transmit and develop knowledge but to develop a form of folklorism or new profitable economic models, such as those of the Puy du fou.

     On the other hand, mistrust sometimes exists on the part of living history actors towards the academic world, which is sometimes considered contemptuous, ageing and sclerotic. These opposing discourses, often heard in the mouths of actors from those two very different social worlds that are living history and academic history, do not however reflect the on-the-ground realities. Thus the “practitioners” of living history base most of their actions on the historical discourse of scientists or use methods similar to the latter to make their costumes or carry out their research on the martial gesture. What is true in one sense is not necessarily true in others, and while some academics no longer hesitate to successfully mobilize living history (and we will come back to this later) there are still many scientists who are resistant to these methods or even directly criticize the scientific validity of such research.

     This mistrust is quite understandable, for as we have seen with the example cited above, many academics are unable to distinguish “the wheat from the chaff” and in doubt abstain from any harvest… It is in order to try to remedy this that we aim in this article to first give some essential elements for understanding what living history is; then to see that gestural experimentation is a method undoubtedly useful to the historical sciences; and finally that a more important collaboration between the academic world and this passionate milieu would lead (and is already leading) to many scientific advances [7]  Much of our own research on the subject will therefore be summarized here, and we invite the curious reader who wishes to go further to consult these two main works:- Vincent TORRES,(2016) under the direction of Laurent Sébastien FOURNIER, Les liens entre l’histoire et les loisirs dans le monde de l’histoire vivante, étude de l’association « Somatophylaques », (The links between history and leisure in the world of living history”, study of the association “Somatophylaques”), dissertation 1 in anthropology at the University of Aix-Marseille,  (available directly here: https://dumas.ccsd.cnrs.fr/dumas-01361471/document)
– Ibidem,(2018) La place du combat dans le milieu de l’histoire vivante “ combattre au présent comme au passé ”(The place of combat in the midst of living history “fighting in the present as in the past”), mémoire 2 d’anthropologie à l’université d’Aix-Marseille
.

An enthusiast's activity, living history

     In order to understand who and what we are talking about when we use the term of living history, we will answer three essential questions.

What is living history? 

     Living history is simply a set of groups and associations which, through their common activities and converging goals, tend to form a new social whole. Social science research on the subject is in progress, so it is only natural that this concept is still subject to discussion. However, we can, on the basis of the first major academic works of importance, give several elements defining it. One of the main works on this subject is the thesis of the sociologist Audrey Tuaillon Demesy [8]  Audrey TUAILLON DEMESY, op. Cit.
. According to the latter, two facets of living history exist and complement each other “like two sides of the same coin “ [9]  Ibidem. P22. On one hand we have the historical reconstruction “The representation of a person (whom may or may not have existed) in accordance with a particular historical period. …] The approach tends to be as rigorous as possible. ” [10] Ibidem. P23and on the other hand we have the HEMA ” The Historical European Martial Arts cover the historically demonstrated study of all forms of martial arts that have existed in Europe from antiquity to the beginning of contemporary history. Thus, the HEMA are interested in the motor situations used in combat “ [11]  Ibidem. P24.

     We agree with this definition by adding three characteristics that we believe are specific to living history groups, which are on the one hand the desire to learn or to do research, on the other hand the constant action of transmitting knowledge, and finally the global will to live and feel with the body sensations attributed (wisely or not) to a past period.

     Thanks to these two definitions we understand what living history cannot and does not want to be [12]  It is also interesting to remember that a group’s identity is more easily defined in terms of what it does not wish to be.. Thus and in spite of many amalgams it is neither historical evocation aiming especially at a form of folklorism [13] We call here “historical evocation” the set of events inspired by historical periods to organize festivals, mainly village festivals, without purely scientific or knowledge dissemination aims (and sometimes aiming at a simple enhancement of local businesses). This is the case, for example, of the Salon de Provence festival, referred to above in the words of the historian Maryline Crivello. ; nor what is commonly called “Live action role-playing game” (LARP [14]  “A meeting between people who, through the play of characters, interact physically in a fictional world. ”(Definition given by the French GN federation http://www.fedegn.org/le-gn/qu-est-ce-quele-gn ) We invite the reader curious to discover this practice to watch the documentary made on this subject by Sébastien Kapp in collaboration with CNRS, EHESS and IIAC: https://archive.org/details/Ragnarok_201602) with mainly recreational objectives; nor the overly sportivized “Buhurt “ [15]  “This practice of organising armoured combat sports competitions, without any real historical or knowledge transmission will, is strongly influenced by the Eastern countries, with Russia in the foreground. The Buhurt , as a discipline that is too sportivized and far removed from history, is far from the norms of French living history and cannot be reintegrated even though it comes from this milieu. In Vincent TORRES’, “la place du combat dans le milieu de l’histoire vivante « combattre au présent comme au passé »” (The place of combat in the milieu of living history “fighting in the present as in the past”.), op. cit. P.109.; nor shows such as those given at the Puy du fou [16]  Founded in 1978 by Philippe de Villiers and located in the Vendée near the town of Cholet, the Puy-du-Fou is a leisure park with a historical theme. Numerous shows are presented there in grandiose settings. With its 1.9 million visitors in 2015, it is the second most visited park in France, and it has been awarded the title of best park in the world on several occasions. , with explicitly lucrative goals.

Who are the players in this one?

     Most of them are history enthusiasts looking for a leisure activity related to their intellectual interests. To sum up rather succinctly the results of our own sociological surveys and that of Audrey Tuaillon Demesy the practitioners of living history are mostly men in their thirties with a level of education higher than the national average (65% have a level equal to or higher than BAC+2 or even 93% in some associations, against 14% at the national level) of which 20 to 50% are students.

     They enter the milieu certainly out of cultural interest but also (and sometimes especially!) for recreational purposes and by a strong search for conviviality. Indeed, leisure and sociability are two elements at the heart of the motivations of practitioners who seek to match their passions with the social groups to which they belong. Moreover, and as the anthropologist Laurent Sébastien Fournier says it very well:

    “Revitalised old practices offer new spaces of freedom, which can attract practitioners in search of exoticism and originality. » [17] Laurent Sébastien FOURNIER, (2012) Mêlée générale. Du jeu de soule au folk-football (Free-for-all. From Soule game to folk-football), Rennes, PUR, collection « Essais », p.211.

     Indeed, living history seems to be one of those activities where escape from everyday life is very easy. In addition, this environment includes a number of craftsmen, academics (we will come back to this later), sportsmen and other specialists who bring a great deal of knowledge and know-how to the other members.

What is their activity?

     The associations that are part of the world of living history see their activities take place mainly in collaboration with museums, archaeological sites, municipalities with the aim of highlighting part of their historical heritage, or universities (when they are not simple internal groups qualified in the field as “off” or “training weekends”). Festivals with a historical flavour during trade or folklore festivals are preferably avoided. [18] Audrey TUAILLON DEMESY (2013) op. cit., p106, The author explains that practitioners of living history prefer museum audiences who will often be more attentive and respectful of their activity.

     Most of their activities revolve around the transmission of knowledge and the popularisation of science. In this sense, they are a definite support for all museum institutions, archaeological sites and other historical sites in order to highlight their heritage to a generally family audience. Similarly, they can periodically provide effective support to educational institutions in order to create cultural interest among young people.

     A large part of the practitioners’ time is moreover devoted to research and reading of historical sources, to the realization of reconstituted material – especially in historical reconstitution – or to martial training, mainly within the AMHEs, although more and more reconstitution associations apply more and more the same training methods.

     This set of activities creates social links within each sub-group of living history and gives them their own identity, often influenced either by the social backgrounds of the groups of friends forming them or even by the historical period worked on and its own images conveyed.

The use of gestural experimentation in science.

     Let us now put living history aside for a few moments in order to focus on the study of gesture in history.

Scientific impasses due to the non-renewal of sources

     A first observation generally imposes itself on the military historian; everything, or just about, has already been the subject of in-depth studies. This base of specialized research or monographs is an excellent springboard for those who wish to take an interest in the geopolitical and war history of our world but can sometimes seem, like a glass ceiling, difficult to surpass in view of the non-renewal of historical sources. In the absence of new sources, the historian has no choice, his method must evolve, and the subject must be approached differently. This is how a real interdisciplinarity with the methods of art history or archaeology has made it possible to make great strides in this field. New technologies allowing the study, for example, of the traces left on the bodies of warriors several centuries old and other alliances with the so-called “hard” sciences have also led to many advances. But beyond that, it is difficult not to simply repeat what has already been said, and to take up the same type of problem that has undoubtedly already been raised a few years before. This was exactly the conclusion reached by Mr Ducrey, who, at the end of his speech entitled “Something new on the struggle of the hoplites. Is that so? “in a symposium organised by the “Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-lettres” at the Villa Kérylos on the theme of the war in Greece [19] http://www.orient-mediterranee.com/spip.php?article2302&lang=f, stated that a new approach should be found to study the sources already present, otherwise we will continue to repeat ourselves on the subject. The same observation was made by the historian Adrian Keith Goldsworthy [20]  Military historian specialising in the history of ancient Rome and graduated from Oxford University in 1994., who at the end of one of his articles [21]  Adrian Keith GOLDSWORTHY, (1997), The Othismos, Myths and Heresies: The Nature of Hoplite Battle, in War in History, vol. 4, n°1, Sage Publications. deals with an infinite debate (for want of new sources) on the hoplitic war and asserts that a good practical approach would ultimately be lacking. But there is a method for this: gestural experimentation.

The use of experimentation in history and prehistory

     Gestural experimentation is an investigative method that allows researchers, through practical experience, to better apprehend and understand the gesture that is at the centre of the study. Gestural experimentation today occupies a major place in experimental archaeology, a method aimed at reconstructing the use and manufacturing method of objects resulting from archaeological excavations, in order to better understand the objects that are at the centre of their studies. Experimental archaeology has been using this method for several years and is recognised in scientific circles, particularly under the impetus of prehistorians, such as the work of André Leroi-Gourhani [22]  André LEROI-GOURHAN, (1943) L’Homme et la matière, (Man and matter) Paris Albin Michel et Milieu et Techniques (1945) (Environment and Techniques), Paris Albin Michel. and Sophie Archambault de Beaune [23]  Sophie ARCHAMBAULT de BEAUNE, (2000), Pour une archéologie du geste. Broyer, moudre, piler. Des premiers chasseurs aux premiers agriculteurs(For an archaeology of gesture. Crushing, grinding, crushing. From the first hunters to the first farmers), Paris, CNRS Éditions. It is not surprising to note that the first to have used this type of method were prehistorians and anthropologists, who, because of a non-existent textual corpus and a lacunae in the iconographic corpus, could only better enhance their archaeological data by this method. But if in prehistory, gestural experimentation soon proved to be unavoidable and very useful, historians too have successfully experimented with it, albeit at a later date.

     Gestural experimentation has already borne fruit, for example, in the history of gladiature [24]  Éric TEYSSIER et Brice LOPEZ, (2005), Gladiateurs. Des sources à l’expérimentation(Gladiators. From sources to experimentation), Paris, éd. Errance, this book has really transformed our scientific approach to gladiature, by highlighting the sporting aspect of the discipline. or that of chivalric combat at the end of the Middle Ages [25]  Daniel Jaquet (2013), L’art chevaleresque du combat. Le maniement des armes à travers les livres de combat, XIVe-XVIe siècle (The chivalrous art of combat. The handling of weapons through the books of combat, 14th-16th century), Neuchâtel, Alphil Presses Universitaires Suisses, in which the author had a complete medieval armour reproduced for a strictly scientific purpose and allowed a real exploitation of medieval sources specific to combat in armour.. It often allows a renewal of the subjects studied and its use within our scientific discipline is increasingly highlighted, particularly during symposium bringing together a large number of specialists in the field of experimentation [26]  Here is the list of the main symposia dedicated specifically to this subject over the last five years: “The Arts of Mars – Martial Theories and Practices from Antiquity to the Renaissance: the Contribution of Gestural Experimentation” held in Lille on 18 and 19 November 2014 / “L’expérimentation du geste, Méthode d’investigation des arts de grâce et de guerre du Moyen-Age à l’époque moderne” held in Geneva in October 2013 / “Les arts de guerre et de grâce, XIVème-XVIIIème siècles,” (http://reght. en/works/motorwork-images-etcodification-of-movement-xive-xviiie-siecles ) De la codification du mouvement à sa restitution : hypothèses, expérimentations et limites ” held in Lille in May 2012 / ” Archéologie expérimentale et histoire de la guerre : un état des lieux “, held in Lille in December 2010). Moreover, the importance of using experiments is already felt by most historians of the war in ancient Greece. Already Mr. Hanson was relying on his experience as a farmer, to focus his discourse on the exaggeration of the importance of the war of attrition in the Greek period [27]  Victor Davis HANSON, (1983), Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece, University of California Press. and was groping in the field by having some of his pupils try out hoplitic equipment, but without any real approach [28]  Victor Davis HANSON, (1990), Le modèle occidental de la guerre, La bataille d’infanterie dans la Grèce classique, translated from English by Alain Billault, Les belles lettres, collection Histoire, p. 89. An experiment by his students that was carried out without any real methodology.. [29]  These are just a few examples amidst a great deal of other research. It is not intended here to be an exhaustive list.

     The element often most discussed in this research is the problem of the validity of the scientific proof provided by such approaches. Indeed, many biases arising from modern corporate or safety standards can quickly interfere with research. Similarly, the body of the researcher as an object of study is a matter of doubt for many historians. Yet there is another science where this problem has been present since the beginning of the 20th century, namely anthropology.

Participant observation in anthropology

     In short, participant observation in anthropology is the method of immersing oneself in a study environment, living with the society being studied by sharing its lifestyle and participating in its activities to the best of one’s ability. Thanks to this, the researcher can first of all acquire the confidence of a group of informants and above all can better perceive the cultural, social, etc. structures and norms of the subjects of his study through her feelings. First implemented by Bronisław Kasper Malinowski [30]  Bronislaw MALINOWSKI, (1989), Les Argonautes du Pacifique occidental (The Argonauts of the Western Pacific), 2ème édition, Gallimard, coll. « Tel ». in his work at the beginning of the 20th century, participant observation is today one of the main methods enabling the anthropologist to understand his field of study.

     Obviously, this must be done carefully, keeping numerous notebooks, day by day, and is also based on other work and numerous interviews. Thanks to this method, anthropologists have been able to carry out a great deal of research, particularly in the field of techniques and the body [31] To cite just a few basic examples:

 David LE BRETON, (2001), Anthropologie du corps et de la modernité, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 5th edition

André LEROI-GOURHAN, (1943), Evolution et techniques (Evolution and techniques). 2 volumes, Paris, Albin Michel, 

Marcel MAUSS, (2012), “Texte 11, Les techniques de corps”(“Text11, The techniques of the body”), in Techniques, technologie et civilisation (Techniques, technology and civilization), PUF, coll ” Quadrige ” pp. 374-375.

Kim MIN-HO, (1999), L’origine et le développement des arts martiaux : pour une anthropologie des techniques de corps (The origin and development of martial arts: for an anthropology of body techniques), Paris, Harmattan

Loïc WACQUANT, (2001), Corps et âme. Carnets ethnographiques d’un apprenti boxeur (Body and soul. Ethnographic notebooks of an apprentice boxer), Marseille, Éditions Agone.

“The researcher borrows the language of the group studied, borrows the inductions of the group: it is an objectification that does not oblige one to assume them as true. Social belonging to the group studied becomes a necessity in order to access its inductions and to avoid having to produce them oneself. Two basic principles: the conditions of the research influence the research, they constitute one of the materials of the research: the problems encountered are part of the research (Cf. Coulon, 1987, p 80) and the researcher’s “I” also describes himself and the disturbance he creates. It is not the loss of objectivity: simply here, the observer is the apparatus of observation. The “I” is part of the context. A form of caution that takes the place of scientific rigour. » [32]  Michel VIAL, (2001), « Une méthode de recherche pour l’Ethnos » (A research method for Ethnos), Les Sciences de l’éducation en question, cahier n° 36, Université de Provence, Département des sciences de l’éducation, Aix-Marseille, p. 136.

     The administration of proof in this case is done precisely in this case not by a rejection of the “I “ [33]  Subjectivity being the historian’s pet peeve, he often struggles to distance himself from it as much as possible, knowing that it is impossible to do so perfectly., but by its acceptance in order to understand its limits and include it in fair proportion within the research. Proof, if needed, that the researcher’s body can, in the study of ancient gestures, become a research tool.

An indispensable articulation

     This is a summary of the experimental process employed in our own research and used by many other researchers and living history groups we have observed. A good experimental protocol requires five essential phases:

   1. the study and analysis of historical sources (textual, iconographic, archaeological) as well as the careful reading of the theses and hypotheses of contemporary historians.

   2. The most faithful possible material reconstitution of the archaeological pieces relevant to the object of study of the protocol.

  3. A long phase of experimentation, not content with simple one-off experiments, but rather a repetition of various experiments with regular training allowing the acquisition of bodily habits. The latter are necessary for the convincing realization of a martial gesture, and for the deep understanding of the reconstructed objects.

  4. An objective analysis of the results of the experiments in order to understand what they show us and what are their limits.

  5. A return to the historical sources enlightened under the new light of the practice of the gesture experimentation and the repetition of the stages of the protocol.

Subjects requiring a large number of people.

     However, while the researcher can produce a great deal of research, particularly in the context of duelling, by endorsing the appropriate equipment himself, it is difficult, in the study of warfare where combat is a group affair, to design good experimental protocols without the help of a large number of people. Thus, if phases 1, 4 and 5 can be carried out by the researcher alone, it is impossible for him to do without a trained working group in the case of the study of warfare. In subjects such as the manoeuvres of the hoplitic phalanx, the position of the sarissa carrier within the Macedonian phalanx, the coordination of a Roman maniple at the dawn of our era, or the use of the pilum in close formation – to mention only a few examples from ancient military history – the gestural experimentation must be carried out by a large number of people. They must have the appropriate equipment and be able to train at least the military sub-complex at the base of the army being studied – an “Enoomotia” in the Greek case or a “maniple” for the Roman legion – or at least get close to it. Otherwise everything would always remain a mere supposition and the transition from theory to practice will be all the more open to criticism (and rightly so this time).

     In order for the experiment to be valid with regard to military history, two very important points must be respected: the conformity of the reconstructed material (stage 2 of the protocol) for all the “participating informants “ [34]  We thus call the individuals participating in the experiment, each one becoming an informant for the researcher in the same way as he himself who carries out his participant observation. as well as the regularity of the training and its repetition over a long period of time (stage 3). It is interesting to note that the experiments used in the works of Victor Davis Hanson, or Walter Donlan and James Thompson [35]  Walter DONLAN, (1976), James THOMPSON, « The charge at Marathon: Herodotus 6.112 », The classical Journal, vol.71, n°4, pp. 339-343. , were mainly criticised in terms of the restitution of objects and the singularity of a single experiment tending to become proof of a historical fact. This only reinforced their opponents in the idea that gestural experimentation in this context could not lead to tangible proof. These biases must therefore be avoided.

     However, it is very difficult for a researcher to obtain sufficient funds to mobilise so many people over a long period of time, and to produce such material except for certain exceptional projects [36]  We invite the reader to learn more about the incredible “protis” project: https://protis.hypotheses.org/ or for a single individual [37]  Daniel JACQUET,(2013) Fighting in armour at the end of the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the Renaissance according to the books of combat, PhD thesis University of Geneva.. It is here that the world of living history becomes a precious ally. Indeed, through their activities, described earlier in this article, living history groups mobilize many enthusiasts who, if they are serious, already have members fully equipped with convincing material (however, it is up to the researcher to make sure of this) for experimentation. These groups like to take part in this type of experiment, even over a long period of time, and this is sometimes their primary activity [38]  This is the case, for example, of the Somatophylaques association, which was conceived as an association primarily for archaeo-experimentation, and secondarily for historical reconstitution.. Sometimes they may themselves propose hypotheses that seem absurd to the researcher who has studied the sources. Yet these proposals are generally made for several reasons. The first is that the participants take pleasure in participating in a scientific experiment. The stimulating action of the research, which is not usual for those not working in this type of field, is part of the pleasure that members may feel in this activity. Thus the leisure of the actors passes through passive participation (as a participating informant), but also sometimes active participation (by proposing hypotheses) in research. In fact, refusing to test hypotheses that seem absurd to those who have studied the sources is to deprive participants of this pleasure and leisure. Most living history practitioners are volunteers. They therefore carry out work free of charge (from an economic point of view) and on a voluntary basis. Their “remuneration”, or should we say the “counter-gift “ [39]  Marcel MAUSS, op. Cit. of their participation is the pleasure they derive from participating in research.

     The second reason why actors in living history propose hypotheses is related to practice. Indeed, the protocol of experimentation is a scientific method where spontaneous discovery is very present. Thus it is not uncommon that when we attempt an experiment that we previously thought to be insignificant, a movement or posture that we had not thought to study or discover becomes obvious to everyone, and that, after confrontation with the sources, the latter is a marvellous match and sheds new light on the research [40]  That’s what serendipity’s all about.. For this to happen, however, it is necessary to leave room for experiments proposed by the actors of the group, even if this would lead to nothing. Here we can see that leisure activities and the involvement of “amateurs” in research are not a problem and are in fact rather constructive.

Subjects requiring specialists sometimes working in this field

     Another of the interests of living history for the historian is the large number of individuals with high technical competence in certain skills close to ancient techniques. For certain subjects of study the researcher, if he is not an accomplished athlete, a skilled blacksmith or a fine marine carpenter, will not be able to carry out these experiments alone and will have to resort to experts. To cite just one example, we will take the gladiator to illustrate our point. The collaboration – more than twenty years ago now – between a sportsman and a historian led to the birth of a major work for the field of gesture experimentation [41]  Éric TEYSSIER and Brice LOPEZ, op. Cit. , and resulted in the creation of a group of professionals who devote themselves year-round to major training sessions in order to produce scientific knowledge and disseminate it to as many people as possible in a new economic model that we shall describe as a “win-win “ [42]  We are talking here about the SARL Acta-archéo (http://www.acta-archeo.com/) not to advertise it, but to cite it as an example of economic articulation linked to historical experimentation and its development. We could cite others, such as the activities carried out at Guédelon (https://www.guedelon.fr/), but our purpose here is not to make a complete list..

     In the same way of thinking, the world of living history, due to the explosion of AMHEs in its midst over the last twenty years, has become a world where many combatants accustomed to the handling of weapons live side by side. Mobilizing their know-how in an experimental protocol can only be fruitful for both the researcher and the combatant aiming to improve his practice in terms of historicity.

Scientists from this field

     Finally, the development of living history, as a growing leisure activity, is leading to vocations among many practitioners. The environment mobilises many history students and some see it as an opportunity to mobilise their know-how and networks in a scientific approach. Let us not forget that at the basis of science there is love, by which we mean passion and interest in a discipline. Without this original passion, few researchers would be able to persevere in research that generally continues over a very long period of time and requires great resilience in order not to give up along the way (all the more so when the economic context is not favourable and does not allow the researcher to live fully from his work). However, living history is essentially made up of enthusiasts; some of them start young and quickly develop the reflexes to become good historians and archaeologists. Thus, many French military historians today, using gestural experimentation, have come from near or far from the field of living history and/or have mobilised this field to advance science.

Conclusion

     In conclusion, living history is today a rapidly growing field, mobilizing a large number of enthusiasts who, for many, follow academic paths sometimes leading to a doctorate. The mobilization of this milieu, if only in the field of military history, is in our opinion indispensable to produce gestural experiments that are scientifically convincing and likely to really advance research in the said field of study (especially when it is a question of understanding group dynamics). Better still, this mobilization creates an enriching momentum for both “parties” and leads to the blossoming of new vocations that bring a breath of youthfulness to the discipline.

     Living history is in full swing, and many excesses are already appearing: sportivisation, conflicts of political or economic interests, isolation of certain groups, rejection of the classical institutions that are universities. Yet the potential is immense and already in action, and it is up to the historian to become aware of it by giving the direction!

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Notes & Références[+]