HST6055: Microhistory and the History of Everyday Life

HST6055 Scene from an Inquisition by Goya

15 credits (Semester 2019-20: Autumn)

Module Leader: Dr James Shaw


Module Summary

"…microhistory cannot be defined in relation to the micro-dimension of its subject matter" Giovanni Levi

The choice of scale is of fundamental importance in determining the kind of history that is produced. It influences the choice of source materials, the way these are handled, and the sorts of conclusions that can be reached. In this module we critically examine the theory, method and practice of two related historiographical approaches: microhistory and the history of everyday life, both of which emphasized the intensive study of the small scale and were influenced by anthropology. You will develop an appreciation of the theoretical issues and practical experience in applying this to their own research.

Module aims

This module aims to give you a solid understanding of microhistory and the history of everyday life, distinct but related historiographical approaches which emphasized the intensive study of the small scale and the application of anthropological perspectives. You will undertake a structured programme of reading, presentation and discussion, examining key texts covering the theory and methodology as well as practical examples of historical research produced using these approaches. Throughout, the aim will be to encourage you to reflect critically on the merits of the approach and on its application in practice to their own research.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, you should be able to demonstrate:

  1. A critical appreciation of the historiographical and theoretical issues relating to microhistory and the history of everyday life;
  2. A practical understanding of the problems and opportunities associated with this methodology through application to a piece of historical research;
  3. An ability to engage critically and independently in current historiographical debates on these issues;
  4. An ability to elaborate and defend an intellectual position and to present scholarly arguments and historiographical debates both orally and in writing.


Learning hours
Seminars Tutorials Independent Learning
10 1 139

The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes. Each will focus on a particular piece of key reading for critical discussion in relation to broader historiographical context. Classes will enable students to share knowledge, debate controversial issues and listen and respond to the views of others in a structured environment. You will have, in addition, at least one individual tutorial with the module leader in which to discuss the work you will write for assessment for this module.



Assessment methods
Assessment % of final mark Length
Coursework 100% 3000 words

You will prepare a short paper (not more than 3000 words) which demonstrates an ability to apply the theory and method of microhistory and/or history of everyday life to a piece of independent research. This is set up as an inquiry-based exercise to be defined by the student with guidance from the tutor.


Selected reading

  • Brewer, John, 'Microhistory and the Histories of Everyday Life', Cultural and Social History 7, no. 1 (2010)
  • Magnússon, Sigurður Gylfi, and István Szijártó, What is Microhistory?: Theory and Practice, (Routledge, 2013)



*The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.