So I’ve been catching up on the material on microhistory, from a seminar I missed, whilst writing my short essay. I decided I really ought to go over the microhistory material since I feel like my project may end up as a microhistory and it is just an approach I am generally drawn towards.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how Rüger’s article “OXO: Or, the Challenges of Transnational History” was the article a lot of the group first connected with in the early weeks and how a carefully presented microhistory such as this is perhaps the best introduction to transnational history rather than a predominately theoretical work focused on trying to ascertain a definition.
Micro history is in many respects history’s grounding point, its home if you will. The discipline begins from the individual stories and case studies that make up micro history and it must return there once in a while. If it were not for the stories there would be no history and no historians. According to Braudel imagination is the historian’s most important tool¹; let us not forget that and that the imagination feeds on stories. And so as the outlook changes to the transnational so history must return to micro history but now looking with fresh eyes for details that may signpost networks previously overlooked, connections previously ignored.
Networks can be difficult to pin down and perhaps by focusing in on individual nodes or connections through micro history historians are given a starting point from which to pursue further research into a given network or convergence of networks or at least a snapshot of connections is created which can later be joined up with others.
It feels as if the Eurocentrism and the centrality of the nation state in previous scholarship is like a camera stuck on a particular setting; if you can’t zoom in or pan out then you will never see a complete picture nor all the details. The combination of micro history and transnationalism can begin to change this as historians must “find more imaginative ways of connecting micro and macro levels”.²

[1] Tonio Andrade. “A Chinese Farmer, Two African Boys; and a Warlord: Toward a Global Microhistory.” Journal of World History 21, no. 4 (December 2010): p. 591

[2]  Jan Rüger, ‘OXO: Or, the Challenges of Transnational History’, European History Quarterly 40, no. 4 (October 1, 2010): p. 660

A bit behind the times but here’s some thoughts on microhistory.