The Singularization of History: Social History and Microhistory within the Postmodern State of Knowledge

This article established its theoretical framework by criticizing the way in which social historians have practiced their scholarship in the last two decades and how and why they have not respondent to the challenges of "the cultural turn" and postmodernism. The main focus of this essay is on the rise in interest in microhistory across the globe in the last decade and on the topics of recent microhistorical research. The essay pays particular attention to one element common to the theoretical orientations of all microhistorians, viz. the connections between micro and macro. Microhistorians of all persuasions emphasize the importance of placing small units of research within larger contexts. In this article, the author seeks to refute this principle and show its inherent contradictoriness. The article explores the implications of this move for the epistemological grounding of microhistory. The author encourages historians to cut the umbilical cord that ties them to grand historical narratives, but he is aware that this is not an easy task, as the grand narratives inform the conventional codes of scientific research.

As an alternative to accepting the guidance of grand narratives, the author advances an approach that he proposes to call the "singularization of history". Taking this approach involves scrutinizing the details and nuances of the events and objects of research and looking for meaning within them, rather than in larger contexts. The article severely critiques the conventional theoretical framework of microhistorical research and attempts to redefine the aims and parameters of microhistory in order for it to achieve its full potential. The "singularization of history" shows the way.