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What Is Micro in Microhistory?

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Chapter Summary

This chapter uses the expression new microhistory to stress the conscious distinction between the micro and macro aspects of historical events. The important common feature of the new microhistory advocated by Carlo Ginzburg and also his Italian colleague historian Giovanni Levi is the 'method of clues'. The distinction micro-macro came to more general use in all social sciences (including history) from the methodology of economics after the Second World War. The concepts 'micro' and 'macro' were introduced in their contemporary meaning in the late 1940s and early 1950s. One of the important texts often cited by the new microhistorians was the essay 'Thick Description' by the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz. Anthropological discussions have influenced the methodological vocabulary of the new microhistory in an important manner. In social sciences the micro-macro distinction is a doctrine to confirm beliefs about social structures, for historians the micro-macro distinction is a tool.

Keywords: anthropological discussions; Carlo Ginzburg; Clifford Geertz; Giovanni Levi; micro-macro distinction; microhistory; Second World War; Thick Description



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