Roman Tales: A Reader’s Guide to the Art of Microhistory, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Roman Tales

A Reader’s Guide to the Art of Microhistory, 1st Edition

By Thomas V. Cohen


240 pages

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Hardback: 9781138636934
pub: 2019-06-10
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Roman Tales: A Reader’s Guide to the Art of Microhistory explores both the social and cultural life of Renaissance Rome and the mind-set and methods of microhistory.

This book draws the reader deep into eight stories: a Christian-Jewish picnic plus an ill-aimed stone-fight, an embassy-driven attack on Rome's police, a magic prophetic mirror, a stolen dwarf, an immured mad hermit, a truly odd elopement, a thieving child who treats his cronies to dinner at the inn, and the bizarre misadventures of a stolen roll of velvet. It meditates on the resources and lacunae that shape the telling of these stories and, through them, it models an historical method that contrives to turn the limits of our knowledge into an advantage by writing honestly and movingly, to bring a dead past back to life, exemplifying and stretching the genre of microhistory. It also discusses strategies for teaching through intensive use of old documents, with a particular focus on criminal tribunal papers.

Engagingly written, Roman Tales outlines the main principles of microhistorical research and draws the reader outwards towards a wider exploration and discovery of sixteenth-century Rome. It is ideal for researchers of microhistory, and of medieval and early modern Italy.

Table of Contents

Ackowledgements; Abbreviations and coinage; 1 First Thoughts; 2If on a Summer's Eve, a Traveller, or Two ….; 3 White Angel; 4 The Spanish Ambassador's Brawl; 5 Hermit on Trial; 6 The Case of the Purloined Dwarf; 7 Black Velvet's Odd Adventure; 8 Nicolina Runs Away; 9 A Boy Steals Gold; Afterword

About the Author

Thomas V. Cohen is Professor of History at York University, Canada. His previous publications include Love and Death in Renaissance Italy (2004).

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 ( and István M. Szijártó (

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.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Europe / Italy
HISTORY / Medieval
HISTORY / Modern / 16th Century