I am currently in the process of writing a paper on a specific genre (to use a word with a musical connotation) of history. I chose to write about microhistory because I wanted to read books that were actually enjoyable. So basically, I'm asking three questions: 1) What is microhistory? 2) Do microhistories about people achieve the same results as microhistories about particular events? and 3) Can a microhistory be written about an event that is well-known (and known to be transformative)?
Now that I've sufficiently bored y'all to tears let me tell you about the article and books I'm using. Jill Lepore's JAH article, "Historians Who Love Too Much" is a wonderful tongue-in-cheek look at the differences between microhistory and biography. I'm using it as the framework for my definition of microhistory. To think, she got started thinking about the topic while holding a lock of Noah Webster's hair in the Special Collections library at Amherst College.
The first book is a microhistory of a family. Tiya Miles' book Ties That Bind is the story of an Afro-Cherokee family in the nineteenth century. Through the story of Shoe Boots and his wife (who was also his slave), readers receive more Cherokee history than they have probably ever experienced. They also get to see just how complex race relations truly were in the United States. I'll admit, I didn't know that American Indians even owned slaves.
To look at a microhistory of a particular event, I chose something a little closer to home in James Green's Death in the Haymarket. Like the title implies, it tells the story of the Haymarket Riot in Chicago. In a sense, though, this book is like a biography of the Second City. At the same time, it truly opened my eyes to labor history in a way that other books could not.
I hope everyone is having a great weekend! I'll be locked in my apartment writing till Monday morning!