A Tale of a Fool?: A Microhistory of an 18th-Century Peasant Woman, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A Tale of a Fool?

A Microhistory of an 18th-Century Peasant Woman, 1st Edition

By Guðný Hallgrímsdóttir


182 pages

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Hardback: 9781138061347
pub: 2019-04-03
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A Tale of a Fool? explores the life of Guðrún Ketilsdóttir, a peasant woman born in Iceland around 1759. Guðrún worked as a farmhand for most of her adult life, and when she died she left behind a partial autobiography, which is believed to be the oldest autobiography of an Icelandic peasant woman.

In this autobiography, Guðrún writes openly about her life and provides colourful depictions of the society in which she lived, providing one of the few first-hand accounts that have survived from members of the peasant class at that time. A Tale of a Fool? demonstrates how it is possible to work with this kind of source using the methods of microhistory as a historical tool to study events and individuals of the past. In doing so, it not only provides an illuminating study of the life of a peasant woman in the 18th and 19th centuries but also addresses the question of the methods, priorities and interpretations applied in the collecting, cataloguing and publication of women’s writing.

Analysing the place of the individual in traditional agrarian societies and highlighting the impact that women have had on the cultural and social history of the period, A Tale of a Fool? is ideal for researchers of microhistory and early modern Iceland/Scandinavia.

Table of Contents

Introduction: women in a men’s world; Chapter 1 One woman, one story; Chapter 2 Early years; Chapter 3 In service: clever and well behaved; Chapter 4 Employment on her own terms; Chapter 5 When one door closes, another opens; Chapter 6 Guðrún at her professional peak; Chapter 7 Illugi Jónsson – a wolf in sheep’s clothing?; Chapter 8 Alone again; Chapter 9 We all grow more craven with age; Chapter 10 Auction of Guðrún’s worldly goods; Chapter 11 The bigger picture; Chapter 12 History of the manuscripts

About the Author

Guðný Hallgrímsdóttir is an independent scholar at the Reykjavík Academy, Iceland, working on a variety of subjects concerned with women’s manuscripts. She is a former member of the board of the Icelandic Association of Historians and the Icelandic Studies Association.

About the Series


Microhistories is open to books employing different microhistorical approaches. Global microhistories aimed at grasping world-wide connections in local research, social history trying to find determining historical structures through a micro-analysis and cultural history in the form of microhistories that relate directly to large or small scale historical contexts are equally welcome. We will also publish interesting stories, bringing the everyday life and culture of common people of the past close to the readers, without the aspiration of finding answers to general "big questions" or relating them to the grand narratives of history. In other worlds, we plan to have the quality of the manuscript deciding its fate. The series is open to publishing both theoretical and empirical works. It is, indeed, often hard to separate the two, especially in microhistory. However, our main focus will be on empirical monographs which are likely to communicate stories from the past which will capture the imagination of our readers. The geographical scope of the series is global and so non- European works or those which cross territorial boundaries are welcome. Any scholar who wishes to contribute to the series will be asked to make sure that they address important issues that can be researched with the methods of microhistory.

For more information about the series and the proposal process, please contact the series editors, Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon ([email protected]) and István M. Szijártó ([email protected]).

The members of the editorial board are the following scholars: Andrew Bergerson, Simona Cerutti, Chuanfei Chin, Dagmar Freist, Carlo Ginzburg, Binne de Haan, Karl Jacoby, Giovanni Levi, Edward Muir, Matti Peltonen, Hans Renders, Jacques Revel, and Dana Sajdi.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Modern / 18th Century
HISTORY / Europe / Scandinavia