Small Worlds: Method, Meaning, and Narrative in Microhistory

Growing dissatisfaction with global perspectives and metanarratives has led to renewed interest in the research genre known as microhistory. As it gained currency, microhistory came to refer to a particular style of work characterized by disenchantment with grand theories of modernization. Its advocates called for a return to narrative, detailed analysis on a small scale, and the search for unforeseen meanings embedded in cases. The essential feature of this perspective is a search for meaning in the microcosm, the large lessons discovered in small worlds. The contributors to this volume urge that potential commonalities of archaeology and history, of sociology and anthropology, be recognized, and that historical interpretation move freely across disciplines. Historical study should be held up to the present and individual lives be understood as the intersection of biography and history. The authors develop these themes in a kaleidoscope of places and periods--West Africa, the Yucatan, medieval Italy, Argentina, California, Brazil, Virginia, Spain, and Boston--small worlds that are the only worlds we experience, study, and sequentially fit together in bigger pictures.