1st Edition

The Musician and the Senator The Microhistory of a Friendship

By Vincenzo Barra Copyright 2023
    214 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book was conceived as a laboratory on microhistory, an attempt to illustrate its main processes and advantages. Through the microhistorical approach the reader is off on an adventurous journey to discover an individual’s perspective, that of maestro Luigi Prisco who emigrated to the USA from the south of Italy. Luigi Prisco was a provincial musician and composer, born in 1857, who lived in Avellino, in Campania. In May 1902 Prisco joined millions of people in emigrating from southern Italy and the rest of the country to the United States, one more droplet in the immense river of Italian migration.

    Luigi Prisco’s personal correspondence with his mentor and friend Senator Donato Di Marzo (1840–1911) provides us with a precious insight into the aspirations and desires of a man who, through his actions, brought radical change to his life. Maestro Prisco’s letters are an interesting and insightful form of self-narration, which can only be fully understood using a microhistorical approach. The study of these letters is particularly valuable in highlighting the relationship between society and the intimate life of an individual, but also in underlining the active role that Prisco as an individual was able to play.

    This volume will be of great use to scholars interested in microhistory, the history of migrations, the history of ‘the self’ and in the development of theoretical approaches and methodologies when using letters as sources in interdisciplinary historical research.



    Preamble: A danse macabre towards a new world

    1. In the City of Frogs (1857-1901)

    2. Infernal chaos (1902-1904)

    3. The gentleman (1905-1907)

    4. The American Prisco (1908-1910)


    Notes on Methodology



    Vincenzo Barra, PhD in Italy and Spain, external cooperator in the research group Histagra (Agrarian History and Rural World Policy) and Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, is Researcher in Modern History at the University of Salerno. He studied the history of local elites in southern Italy in the late modern era. His research has also focused on the comparative history of the political clientelism during the Bourbon Restoration in Spain and the Kingdom of Italy in the liberal age. His line of research includes the study of how everyday life was 'archived' and represented in ego-documents, focusing on personal letters with a microhistorical approach.