Microhistory Examples

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Each theory of history constitutes differences and similarities between methodological approaches in addressing various problems in historiographical writings. Two of these fields, microhistory and social history, further illustrate how different methods produce different results and conclusions. Microhistory, a subcategory of social history, conducts research looking at a single individual, a community, or other small units in society. Whereas in social history, social groups and communities take place over the individual, to connect to overarching narratives. Comparing an example of microhistory, exemplified by Carlo Ginzburg, to an example of social history, shown by David Sabean, highlights the similarities, flaws, and differences in these…show more content…
Ginzburg critiques social history, arguing against the idea of broad generalization of social phenomena as a way to understand these issues. On the contrary, critical analysis of a single person can demonstrate these phenomena better. In an analysis of the individual Jean-Pierre Purry in the early 18th century Europe, Ginzburg focuses on Purry’s writing and journals, along with letters he sent to the major governors of countries and trading companies for his source material. These sources place the author's focus solely on the individual, something that social history strays from when incorporating the larger society. Through this historical figure, the author reveals Purry’s plans and justifications for European colonization. Rooted in biblical prophecies, Purry’s plans for colonial settlement evolve from the book of Exodus and the journey to the Promised Land. Through the use of natural law and religious fervor, Purry answers the justification of European colonialism. Ginzburg takes this information and looks at how it would apply to previous historians’ work. He looks at Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism - a social history rooted in empirical research - that argues that Calvinist and Puritan attitudes had a critical role in the development of capitalism. The author mentions this book because, at first glance, Ginzburg feels that Purry fits into this overarching narrative. However, by doing this, Ginzburg would add to an abstract ideal conclusion and relativism seen in social history. Other social historians might analyze Purry and apply him to Weber’s metanarrative, however through the counter-narrative of Marx’s Capital, Ginzburg
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