What Is Microhistory?

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Christopher Adam Profile
Microhistory is the study of the minutae, such as local people, everyday life or seemingly minor events of very limited scope, in order to draw conclusions about larger historical questions. Historians who practice some form of microhistory believe that examining a local phenomenon may provide insight into larger issues or historical debates.

One of the most famous examples of microhistory is Carlo Ginzburg's book "The Cheese and the Worms." Ginzburg examines the life and unique beliefs of Menocchio, a miller in sixteenth century Friuli, a region in Italy. Menocchio was put on trial for proclaiming heretical beliefs, derived from Deism, Utopian ideals, Humanism and peasant myths.

By investigating the belief system of a sixteenth century peasant, Ginzburg draws larger conclusions about European peasant culture during the Reformation period and how the beliefs of ordinary people differed from the official teachings of the Catholic Church, Lutheranism, or Calvinism. Ginzburg concludes that Peasant culture was an important aspect of life in Europe during this period and that it was based on mythology, pre-Christian beliefs, as well as notions of tolerance.

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