The development of microhistory. Einaudi “microstorie” and Quaderni Storici; Ginzburg, Giovanni Levi, Edoardo Grendi, Carlo Poni et al; history from below. ‘s and ‘s as practiced by the canonical figures Carlo Ginzburg or Giovanni. Levi. Although it is never hard to point to predecessors retrospectively, . The work of Clifford Geertz was particularly important to the emergence of microhistory, even if some of the microhistorians, Giovanni Levi in particular, had .
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Roots of an Evidential Paradigm. The synchronic dimension is, therefore, less important than might seem immediately apparent, as traditional social history already tends to provide the larger narrative within which the Italian microhistorians situated their own work.
Boyer, Paul — Nissenbaum, Stephen Close observation of individuals in action provides a better description of a particular social system, because it tends to emphasize the unique forces at work microhistlry of relying on universal rules of human behavior to explain individual actions. In part jicrohistory is because his arguments were intended as a response to the empirical historians’ criticisms of microhistory as much as they were to refining the technique itself.
One effect of this approach that has already been mentioned is the notion that features of human behavior, such as human rationality, that seem to be universal are actually contingent upon the cultural systems that produce them. This should be realized, I think, by all those microhistorians who speak about mjcrohistory fluidity and openness of ,icrohistory systems Levip. His argument, therefore, focuses on the ways in which culture can be described by the historian, not the mechanisms through which social change eventually occurs.
This method clearly breaks with the traditional assertive, authoritarian form of discourse adopted by historians who present reality as objective. So I would lefi to keep myself to this treatment and finish this essay with a brief autobiographical story from Arthur Danto. The Cheeseand the Worms: Once we have assembled the data, we have not only one individual’s life, but a significant portion of the social and economic networks within which that person lived.
The source of the microhistorians’ frustration was the fact that quantitative approaches tend to reduce the lives of millions to a few economic and demographic data points. This again reflects the use of anthropological methods, which are notoriously unconcerned with change.
In this sense it is important to recall that while the Italian microhistorians were critical of social history, they never envisioned their method as a replacement for Microhisttory school studies, which they ultimately admired. The documents contained nothing to suggest her complicity, and, therefore, Davis could not responsibly suggest otherwise, or she risked ascribing false motives to real people.
The Micrkhistory microhistorians’ interest in the historic variations in people’s lived experience of the world was heavily influenced by developments in cultural anthropology in the s and s. In the case of Darnton’s cat massacre, the example was revealing only of the dissatisfaction of a few individuals, and did not provide any additional insight into existing understandings mirohistory eighteenth-century French society.
Historians, Finlay argued, have a responsibility not to distort the sources they work mcrohistory. And while the first microhistorical studies concentrated exclusively on the lives of otherwise obscure individuals or small groups, later studies by Carlo Ginzburg and Pietro Redondi reexamined the lives of famous individuals such as the artist Piero della Francesca and the astronomer Galileo Galilei respectively.
Microhistory – Wikipedia
But the system was also defined by the participants’ interactions with each other, and by the particular ways in which they came into contact with broader economic and social structures. And this is the pragmatic end for which it is worth to stop methodology-talk. However, while the most famous microhistories, such as Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms or Natalie Zemon Davis’s The Return of Martin Guerre, have dealt with obviously marginal or exceptional members of society such as heretics and criminals, some lesser-known studies have demonstrated the ability to uncover microgistory existence of invisible groups and activities that might fairly be termed mainstream.
Therefore, the lvei must attempt to formulate a hypothesis based on incomplete evidence, rather than use large amounts of data to confirm or disprove some initial theory about past behavior. Despite methodology-talk, microhistorians often do not, sometimes even cannot, and certainly they should not act methodologically in practice.
As individuals, they argued, we relate to the world through the particular, creating understandings of the larger world through the accumulation of small fragmentary pieces of data.
The Story of an Exorcist. In other words, they wanted to escape the sometimes simplistic functionalism of the social historians without in any way denying the importance or power of social and economic structure.
The Cheese and the Worms: When microhistory looked so promising a generation ago, the main source of high hopes was its experimental character. To the Italian microhistorians the evidential paradigm with its technique of extrapolating from small bits microhhistory evidence to reach broader conclusions constituted the crux of their new method.
Its success was simply due to its historiographical significance. Tax rolls would provide some notion of our subject’s gioganni wealth, and court records would allow us a glimpse of what sorts gioavnni disputes, if any, our subject was involved in, as well as how they were resolved.
The Refashioning of Martin Guerre. The microhistorians were particularly interested in the ways in which structure constrained individual choice, and the ways that people shaped their lives in response to those constraints.
In this case, however, he would not have behaved like microhidtory historian. While incompetent persons general readers do not seem to be curious of a story about how historians are doing their job that is to say, about what makes a historian competentcompetent historians know giovamni tacitly accepted tricks, devices and techniques well.
Davis defended herself by pointing out the degree to which she had created a context within which to situate her interpretations through painstaking descriptions of sixteenth-century legal culture and village life. They appear as the right persons to tell stories about past people. New Perspectives on Historical Writing. Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture.
Levi’s prescription against this eventuality was to reiterate the microhistorians’ commitment to a more traditional historical understanding of human rationality. In terms of microhistory, the original Italian technique may be said to concentrate on the “model of” aspect of culture, while North American practices have concentrated on the “model for” aspect. So far so good,but I am not sure that our refusal has common roots.