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23 November 1989
Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in 16th-century France 
by Natalie Zemon Davis.
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 NatalieZemonDavis’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 ...

Kingdoms of Paper

Natalie Zemon Davis: 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. Others, following Foucault, push the ...

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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... Both David Cressy and Cynthia Herrup believe they are writing microhistory, a word coined by Italians, but used to describe above all the work of NatalieZemonDavis (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 ...

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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... Questions of imagery, tone, metaphor and internal structure, and of the way one utterance, aloud or on paper, resonates with others, have been raised by scholars such as Carlo Ginzburg and NatalieZemonDavis, 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 Zemon Davis.
Faber, 448 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 571 20256 0
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... Razi, al-Idrisi, al-Tughrai, Ibn Rushd (or Averroes), Ibn Sina (or Avicenna), al-Farabi and al-Ghazali, as well as a cluster of eminent Jews, such as Maimonides. But Leo’s literary afterlife is not NatalieZemonDavis’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 (or at least subjects ...
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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... not future editions include entries on May McKisack (an expert Medievalist), on Dorothy George (who pioneered the scholarly study of cartoons), on Phyllis Deane, the economic historian, and indeed on NatalieZemonDavis? 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 ...

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 narrative as a confidence trick. Instead, we have a body of historians much more appropriate to Greenblatt’s intuitions, as well as more representative of the state of 16th-century history: NatalieZemonDavis, 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 ...

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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... and ‘topological’ philosophers, as well as his own commercial rivals. Some greatest hits from recent historical writing are converted into Post-Modernists – Simon Schama, Robert Darnton, NatalieZemonDavis 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 ...

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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... of the sources, the trials have provided some of the best examples of ‘microhistory’ or ‘the new narrative’. This, pioneered in French by Le Roi Ladurie (Montaillou, 1975), and in English by NatalieZemonDavis (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 ...

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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... founded in 1983 and still going strong, included in its first issue no editorial statement or declared common project; only the blurb on the subscription form, written by the historian NatalieZemonDavis, 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 ...

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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... a barricade in the place de la Concorde, and forcing the police to resort to tear gas. Burton may exaggerate the centrality of bloodshed in French political culture, but his close attention to what NatalieZemonDavis 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 ...

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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... by responding tolerantly to Harington’s work. Scott-Warren adds much welcome detail to larger scale theoretical accounts of the role of gift-giving within early modern culture, such as those by NatalieZemonDavis 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 ...

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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... studies that illuminate the lives of European peasants by isolating and reconstructing a single resonant story. The best of these microhistories – Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms and NatalieZemonDavis’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 ...

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