In The Night Battles, Carlo Ginzburg does more than introduce his readers to a novel group of supposed witches – the Benandanti, from the northern Italian province of Friulia. He also invents and deploys new and creative ways of tackling his source material that allow him to move beyond their limitations. Witchcraft documents are notoriously tricky sources – produced by elites with fixed views, they are products of questioning designed to prove or disprove guilt, rather than understand the subtleties of belief, and are very often the products of torture. Ginzburg placed great stress on variations in the evidence of the Benandanti over time to reveal changing patterns of belief, and also focused on the concept of ‘reading against the text’ – essentially looking as much at what is absent from the record as at what is present in it, and attempting to understand what the absences mean. His work not only pioneered the creation of a new school of historical study – ‘microhistory’ – it is also a great example of the creative thinking skills of connecting things together in an original way, producing novel explanations for existing evidence, and redefining an issue so as to see it in a new light.
Ways in to the text Who was Carlo Ginzburg? What does The Night Battles say? Why does The Night Battles matter? Section 1: Influences Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context Module 2: Academic Context Module 3: The Problem Module 4: The Author's Contribution Section 2: Ideas Module 5: Main Ideas Module 6: Secondary Ideas Module 7: Achievement Module 8: Place in the Author's Work Section 3: Impact Module 9: The First Responses Module 10: The Evolving Debate Module 11: Impact and Influence Today Module 12: Where Next? Glossary of Terms People Mentioned in the Text Works Cited
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