History 280B: Microhistory and Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe

Instructor: Professor Peter Sahlins

This course fulfills an elective requirement for the DE in REMS.

This graduate seminar considers several topics in the study of European popular culture(s) during the long early modern period (14th-19th centuries), relying on the methodologies of microhistory.  In an age that increasingly values “Big History” and “The Long Duration,” this course focuses on a methodological approach widely practiced since the 1970s that seeks to make sense of discrete and unusual moments (often scandals or judicial trials) in the lives and activities of a single person or small group of people who have been marginalized in more traditional accounts of early modern European history.  Focusing on the lives, beliefs, and behaviors of (mostly) marginal people in peripheral places, microhistorians seek to uncover the everyday worlds of ordinary people in a society transformed by religious reformation, the rise of literacy, the growth of state power, and economic transformation.   After some preliminary reflections on microhistory and popular culture, we focus on four themes: gender, sexuality, and identity; religious heterodoxy; politics and rebellion; and translocal microhistory (involving movement across space and cultural boundaries).  Readings include classical works by Carlo Ginzburg, Natalie Zemon Davis, Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Michel de Certeau, and others, alongside methodological reflections on the question of scale in historical analysis.

Section times and locations in the Schedule of Classes