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In Scheherezade’s shoes

Colin Jones, 23 November 1989

Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in 16th-century France 
by Natalie ZemonDavis.
Polity, 217 pp., £22.50, March 1988, 0 7456 0531 1
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... Like good detective novels, the letters of remission which are the subject of Natalie ZemonDavis’s most recent book usually start with a corpse which requires to be explained. Other offences – tax riot, heresy, the defloration of a virgin – could be the occasion for the ‘pardon tales’ such letters contained, but the procedure was most often resorted to by someone who had been the cause of someone else’s death ...

Kingdoms of Paper

Natalie ZemonDavis: Identity and Faking It, 18 October 2007

Who Are You? Identification, Deception and Surveillance in Early Modern Europe 
by Valentin Groebner, translated by Mark Kyburz and John Peck.
Zone, 349 pp., £18.95, April 2007, 978 1 890951 72 6
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... When does the history of personal identification technology begin? The history of fingerprinting, photographs, retinal scans, DNA testing? Of the many situations in which we are called on to prove who we are, and of the many places in which our identity is recorded? Some accounts start with the French Revolution and the needs of modern states and colonial empires ...

Skipwith and Anktill

David Wootton: Tudor Microhistory, 10 August 2000

Travesties and Transgressions in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 351 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 19 820781 6
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A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the Second Earl of Castlehaven 
by Cynthia Herrup.
Oxford, 216 pp., £18.99, December 1999, 0 19 512518 5
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... are writing microhistory, a word coined by Italians, but used to describe above all the work of Natalie ZemonDavis (The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983) and Robert Darnton (The Great Cat Massacre, 1984). Microhistorians have turned to the verbatim records of interrogations kept in the law courts of early modern Europe ...

Obey and Applaud

Thomas Cohen: Exchanging Ideas in Early Modern Venice, 5 June 2008

Information and Communication in Venice: Rethinking Early Modern Politics 
by Filippo de Vivo.
Oxford, 312 pp., £60, October 2007, 978 0 19 922706 8
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... aloud or on paper, resonates with others, have been raised by scholars such as Carlo Ginzburg and Natalie ZemonDavis, both always alert to the politics of utterance. How far, for instance, did a particular medium – gossip, say, or an ambassadorial report or a political pamphlet – shape or transform the ...

Leo’s Silences

Robert Irwin: The travels of Leo Africanus, 8 February 2007

Trickster Travels: A 16th-Century Muslim between Worlds 
by Natalie ZemonDavis.
Faber, 448 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 571 20256 0
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... as well as a cluster of eminent Jews, such as Maimonides. But Leo’s literary afterlife is not Natalie ZemonDavis’s chief concern. Davis has a considerable reputation in the field of early modern history. She has tended to specialise in cultural history and marginal subjects ...

Downward Mobility

Linda Colley, 4 May 1989

The Blackwell Dictionary of Historians 
edited by John Cannon, R.H.C. Davis, William Doyle and Jack Greene.
Blackwell, 480 pp., £39.95, September 1988, 9780631147084
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Edward Gibbon, Luminous Historian, 1772-1794 
by Patricia Craddock.
Johns Hopkins, 432 pp., £19, February 1989, 0 8018 3720 0
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Gibbon: Making History 
by Roy Porter.
Palgrave, 187 pp., £14.95, February 1989, 0 312 02728 1
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Macaulay 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Trafalgar Square, 160 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 9780297794684
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Acton 
by Hugh Tulloch.
Trafalgar Square, 144 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 297 79470 1
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... the scholarly study of cartoons), on Phyllis Deane, the economic historian, and indeed on Natalie ZemonDavis? And, while I am labouring this particular point, should women’s history really be catalogued – as it is here – as feminist history? Women’s history is essentially an attempt to describe the ...

Laid Down by Ranke

Peter Ghosh: Defending history, 15 October 1998

In Defence of History 
by Richard J. Evans.
Granta, 320 pp., £8.99, October 1998, 1 86207 068 7
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... recent historical writing are converted into Post-Modernists – Simon Schama, Robert Darnton, Natalie ZemonDavis and Orlando Figes. But Evans never cites an instance of these authors even borrowing the Post-Modernist label, let alone one showing that they conceive of themselves as working on behalf of an ...

Remember Me

John Bossy: Hamlet, 24 May 2001

Hamlet in Purgatory 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Princeton, 322 pp., £19.95, May 2001, 0 691 05873 3
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... to Greenblatt’s intuitions, as well as more representative of the state of 16th-century history: Natalie ZemonDavis, David Cressy, Eamon Duffy. More privately, there is the story he tells us in his prologue about his acceding, if sheepishly, to the unspoken wishes of his dead father by saying Kaddish for him. Which ...

Brutish Babies

David Wootton: Witchcraft, 11 November 1999

Shaman of Oberstdorf: Chonrad Stoeckhlin and the Phantoms of the Night 
by Wolfgang Behringer, translated by H.C.Erik Midelfort.
Virginia, 203 pp., £14.50, September 1998, 0 8139 1853 7
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Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe 
by Stuart Clark.
Oxford, 845 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 19 820001 3
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Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Routledge, 368 pp., £55, April 1999, 0 415 19611 6
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The Bewitching of Anne Gunter: A Horrible and True Story of Football, Witchcraft, Murder and the King of England 
by James Sharpe.
Profile, 256 pp., £16.99, November 1999, 9781861970480
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... narrative’. This, pioneered in French by Le Roi Ladurie (Montaillou, 1975), and in English by Natalie ZemonDavis (The Return of Martin Guerre, 1983) and Robert Darnton (The Great Cat Massacre, 1984), involves giving a detailed description of events in the lives of ordinary people and is almost always based on ...

He wouldn’t dare

David A. Bell: Bloodletting in Paris, 9 May 2002

Blood in the City: Violence and Revelation in Paris 1789-1945 
by Richard D.E. Burton.
Cornell, 395 pp., £24.50, September 2001, 0 8014 3868 3
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... the centrality of bloodshed in French political culture, but his close attention to what Natalie ZemonDavis has called the ‘rites of violence’ reveals some enduring historical patterns. As he puts it, episode after episode of ‘almost choreographed violence’ followed the ‘same basic scenario’. The ...

A Joke Too Far

Colin Burrow: My Favourite Elizabethan, 22 August 2002

Sir John Harington and the Book as Gift 
by Jason Scott-Warren.
Oxford, 273 pp., £45, August 2001, 0 19 924445 6
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... theoretical accounts of the role of gift-giving within early modern culture, such as those by Natalie ZemonDavis and by the father of gift theory, Marcel Mauss. Scott-Warren looks in detail at the settings within which Harington wrote, dedicated and donated his books, and finds each act of giving to be a precisely ...

Touches of the Real

David Simpson: Stephen Greenblatt, 24 May 2001

Practising New Historicism 
by Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt.
Chicago, 249 pp., £17.50, June 2000, 0 226 27934 0
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... or declared common project; only the blurb on the subscription form, written by the historian Natalie ZemonDavis, gave any inkling of a consensus, and that was woefully vague. What we were getting, she wrote, was a ‘strikingly original set of voices’ ranging across various boundaries in pursuit of the ...

Loitering in the Piazza

Stephen Greenblatt, 27 October 1988

Inheriting Power: The Story of an Exorcist 
by Giovanni Levi, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Chicago, 209 pp., £21.50, June 1988, 0 226 47417 8
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... story. The best of these microhistories – Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms and Natalie ZemonDavis’s The Return of Martin Guerre – succeed in making their stories what Kenneth Burke calls ‘representative anecdotes’, reflections of reality that are inevitably selections of reality. The ...

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