What is Microhistory? : Theory and Practice book cover
1st Edition

What is Microhistory?
Theory and Practice

ISBN 9780415692083
Published May 21, 2013 by Routledge
192 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $170.00

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

This unique and detailed analysis provides the first accessible and comprehensive introduction to the origins, development, methodology of microhistory – one of the most significant innovations in historical scholarship to have emerged in the last few decades.

The introduction guides the reader through the best-known example of microstoria, The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg, and explains the benefits of studying an event, place or person in microscopic detail. In Part I, István M. Szijártó examines the historiography of microhistory in the Italian, French, Germanic and the Anglo-Saxon traditions, shedding light on the roots of microhistory and asking where it is headed. In Part II, Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon uses a carefully selected case study to show the important difference between the disciplines of macro- and microhistory and to offer practical instructions for those historians wishing to undertake micro-level analysis. These parts are tied together by a Postscript in which the status of microhistory within contemporary historiography is examined and its possibilities for the future evaluated.

What is Microhistory? surveys the significant characteristics shared by large groups of microhistorians, and how these have now established an acknowledged place within any general discussion of the theory and methodology of history as an academic discipline. 

Table of Contents

Part I (István M. Szijártó)  Introduction: Against simple truths.  Chapter 1: Italian microhistory.  Chapter 2: Under the impact of microstoria: the French and German perspective.  Chapter 3: Microhistory in a broader sense: the Anglo-Saxon landscape.  Chapter 4: The periphery and the new millennium: answers and new questions.  Part II (Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon)  Chapter 5: The doctor’s tale: the living and the dead.  Chapter 6: Refashioning of famous French peasants.  Chapter 7: New and old theoretical issues: criticism of microhistory.  Chapter 8: A West Side story, and the one who gets to write it.  Postscript: To step into the same stream twice.  References.  Extended Bibliography.  Index.

View More



Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon is currently the chair of the Center for Microhistorical Research at the Reykjavík Academy (www.microhistory.org) and Dr. Kristján Eldjárn Research Fellow at the National Museum of Iceland. He is the author of seventeen books and numerous articles published in Iceland and abroad. His previous publications include Wasteland with Words. A Social History of Iceland (2010).

István M. Szijártó is Associate Professor in the Department of Economic and Social History at Loránd Eötvös University, Hungary. He is the author of three books and several articles published in Hungary and abroad. His previous publications include Experience, Agency, Responsibility. The Lessons of Russia’s Microhistory (2011).


'The voices of two authors combine in this important analysis of the evolving character of microhistory. This study guides the reader through the achievements of microhistory to date. It also offers a thought-provoking perspective on the potential for microhistory to continue to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past."

Graeme Murdock, Trinity College Dublin, Republic of Ireland

"…[Szijártó’s] achievement is impressive; he displays a useful familiarity with scores of publications treating widely divergent periods and places…Magnússon’s exploration of the possibilities and limitations of microhistory is original and daring."

Richard D. Brown, University of Connecticut in The American Historical Review

"...[Szijártó and Magnússon] both argue for a method understood in epistemological terms, and their ultimate answer to the question that their book bears as a title is that microhistory is the method, and probably the right one, to gain reliable knowledge of the past."

Zoltan Boldizsar Simon, University of Bielefeld

"Magnusson’s and Szijarto’s book is one of the first comprehensive introductions to microhistorical theory. They show that microhistory has not only been a temporary fashion and that it should be respected as a fully-fledged historical research method... The book is intended to stimulate new debate about the position of microhistory in current historiography."

English Historical Review