This book studies everyday writing practices among ordinary people in a poor rural society in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Using the abundance of handwritten material produced, disseminated and consumed some centuries after the advent of print as its research material, the book's focus is on its day-to-day usage and on "minor knowledge," i.e., text matter originating and rooted primarily in the everyday life of the peasantry.
The focus is on the history of education and communication in a global perspective. Rather than engaging in comparing different countries or regions, the authors seek to view and study early modern and modern manuscript culture as a transnational (or transregional) practice, giving agency to its ordinary participants and attention to hitherto overlooked source material. Through a microhistorical lens, the authors examine the strength of this aspect of popular culture and try to show it in a wider perspective, as well as asking questions about the importance of this development for the continuity of the literary tradition. The book is an attempt to explain “the nature of the literary culture” in general – how new ideas were transported from one person to another, from community to community, and between regions; essentially, the role of minor knowledge in the development of modern men.
" (…) the authors' analysis of the work and lives of five Icelandic scribes enriches understanding of 19th-century literacy, history, and culture in ways that have applications beyond Icelandic studies and could particularly interest scholars of literacy, philology, historiography, bibliography, and more."
-M. Anderson, Southern Oregon University
Introduction: Towards a New Model of Fragmented History
Part I: Theory and Historiography
1. Historiography of Texts: From Literacy to Literacy Practices Within the Anglo-Saxon School of Thought
2. Scribal Culture in Transnational Perspective
3. Local and Global Perspectives as Platforms for Barefoot Historians: A Microhistorical Approach
Part II: The Structure of Culture and Education
4. Setting the Scene Within the Hard Rock of Reality
5. Vernacular Literacy Between Two Campaigns
6. Emotions and Education
Part III: Barefoot Historians and Their Everyday Life
7. Childhood, Local Culture and Educational Processes
8. A Quest for a Space – A No-Place: Scribal Communities as Institutional Structures
9. Solidarity with Substance: “History is No Respecter of Persons, It Depicts Both High and Low”
10. Postscript: Cornerstone for a Creative Space in the Nineteenth Century