Minor Knowledge and Microhistory: Manuscript Culture in the Nineteenth Century, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Minor Knowledge and Microhistory

Manuscript Culture in the Nineteenth Century, 1st Edition

By Sigurdur Gylfi Magnusson, David Olafsson


242 pages | 22 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2016-10-14
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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

Table of Contents

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

About the Authors

Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon is Professor of Cultural History in the Department of History and Philosophy at the University of Iceland.

Davíð Ólafsson is Adjunct Lecturer of Cultural Studies in the School of Humanities, Faculty of Icelandic and Comparative Cultural Studies, at the University of Iceland.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Cultural History

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Europe / General
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
HISTORY / Social History