SI CFP: Microhistory

Microhistory in Management History and Organization Theory

Management & Organizational History

Manuscript deadline: 17 February 2023

Special Issue Editors:

Liv Egholm, Copenhagen Business School
le.mpp@cbs.dk

Michael Heller, Brunel Business School
michael.heller@brunel.ac.uk

Michael Rowlinson, University of Exeter Business School
m.c.rowlinson@exeter.ac.uk

There has been a resurgence of interest in microhistory. The classic texts associated with the subject remain immensely popular: The Cheese and the Worms (Ginzburg, 1992[1976]); The Return of Martin Guerre (Zemon Davis, 1983); and The Great Cat Massacre (Darnton, 1984). These provide a reference point, which has provided the basis for increasing reflection on the theoretical significance and methodological distinctiveness of microhistory (Magnússon & Szijártó, 2013), such as the special issue of Past and Present on ‘Global History and Microhistory’ (Ghobrial, 2019). Attention has also been paid to microhistory from management and business history as well as organization studies (Bourguignon & Floquet, 2019; Decker, 2015).

Microhistory offers an opportunity to reconceptualise relationships which lie at the heart of historical research and historiography: the historical nexus between the particular and the general, agency and structure, the micro and the macro. Microhistorians are known for their methodological habit of reading sources forensically in their search for historical clues. It implies reading historical sources ‘against the grain’ (Decker & McKinlay, 2020, pp. 26-27), or as Levi (2019: 41) puts it, ‘beyond the edge of the page’, carefully looking for what Ginzburg refers to as “unintended evidence” (Ginzburg, 2016). The use of microhistory as a magnifying glass can be seen as the equivalent of a detective’s tool. Sherlock Holmes´ working methods are often used as a metaphor for microhistory’s careful readings and detection of clues (Ginzburg, 2013 (1979)), often within “exceptional normal” cases (Grendi, 1977).

For this reason, the trademark of microhistorical methodology is to trace sources and clues throughout and across archives (Ginzburg, 2013). The names of actors, places, concepts, events, or objects are used as concrete entry points to show how previously unrelated spaces, temporalities, and fields are woven together in practice. This mapping demonstrates great potential in revealing unnoticed relations between, for example, family life and entrepreneurship (Popp & Holt, 2013), religious practices and trade (Trivellato, 2019), or philanthropic gift giving and the establishment of the welfare state (Egholm, 2021).

The purpose is not to argue for the universal value of the exceptional; it is to show, rather, how discrete historical events challenge our conceptualisations of the universal, and provide essential clues to what can be considered as normal (Ginzburg, 1979; Peltonen, 2001). Accordingly, the reduction of scale is not the study of the “microness” of a phenomenon (Levi, 2019, p. 38). The reduction of scale, rather, provides the historian with a heuristic tool to craft new theories by distorting or amending metanarratives and reformulating historical concepts and relations. Without explicitly mentioning microhistory, a series of organizational phenomena have been reconceptualized from a close reading of sources, with notable examples being the career (McKinlay, 2002), and entrepreneurship (Popp & Holt, 2013. Thus, microhistory shows how, “history is a discipline of general questions and ‘local’ answers” (Levi, 2019, p. 45).

The historic turn (Rowlinson, Hassard, & Decker, 2014) has pushed for a revised understanding of past context as offering more than simply temporal variables for universal theorising (Van Lent & Durepos, 2019). Historical phenomena often remain, however, reduced to consequences or affectations of particular contexts. In contrast, microhistory calls out for a grounding and explanation of the past through analyses of how actors, places, concepts, events or objects interact and are woven together in contradictory and often different fields and interests. In so doing, microhistory exposes how both individuals and social structures of all kinds are produced simultaneously through relationships and processes.

This special issue’s scope is to explore the methodological, ontological, and empirical strengths of microhistory to advance management history and organization studies. Therefore, we invite both theoretical, and theoretically informed empirical submissions that will further the contribution of microhistory in business history, management, and organizational history, as well as management and organization theory.

Questions and topics of interest for the special issue may include:

  1. How does the use of microhistory question, elaborate, or develop macro theories or broader conceptualisations from within the confines of discrete and particular historical studies
  2. How do microhistorical methodologies of reading “beyond the edges of the paper” contradict and undermine broader historical narratives in business and management and organizational history such as Marxism, functionalism, institutionalism, neo-liberalism, the resource-based view of the firm, and economic path dependency?
  3. What are the advantages and concerns for the use of historical archival research, source criticism, triangulation, and historical interpretivism when innovative microhistorical methodologies work with “dissonant sources” and “unintended evidence”?
  4. What is the impact of microhistory in relation to archival ethnography and the employment of micro historical sources (e.g., letters, diaries, postcards, travel accounts, scrapbooks, and memoirs)?
  5. What is the way in which local knowledge and local environment historically create organizational, business, and entrepreneurial opportunities?
  6. How does a microhistorical approach reconceptualise the relationship between agency and structure in business and management and organizational history?
  7. What is the relationship between the different scales of history? In particular, to what extent do microhistories develop historical accounts that reflect on a granular scale broader organizational and business historical environments and trends?
  8. How can we account for generalisation by using a microhistorical approach? How can local answers reply to general questions by showing complex and often ambiguous connections in historical archives?

The Microhistory Network

For those of us interested in microhistory as an approach, there is an interested resource online that I only recently discovered: The Microhistory Network:

“The Microhistory Network was created as a loose group in January 2007 to bring together historians interested in the theory and practice of microhistory through a homepage with a bibliography, links to the members’ homepages and other relevant webpages that would give information about conferences, events, the publication of books and articles. The founding members of the Microhistory Network are Mihail Boytsov, Carlo Ginzburg, Marion Gray, Ingar Kaldal, Giovanni Levi, David M. Luebke, Sigurdur Gylfi Magnússon, Sarah Maza, Edward Muir, Matti Peltonen, Guido Ruggiero, David Sabean and István Szijártó. The coordinator of the Microhistory Network is Kristóf Kovács and István Szijártó (Eötvös University, Budapest).”

I have read the work of several of these scholars with great interest, and they have just announced an online course:

ONLINE COURSE
From September 2020, Eötvös University (Budapest) offers the online course Introduction into microhistory for a limited number of students. Attending the classes is free of charge. For details see the course homepage.

Applied microhistory: A workshop.

Applied microhistory: A workshop.

Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris
Tuesday, 15 March 2016.
9 am – 2 pm

As time puts things into perspective, the heated and sometimes misleading historiographical debates of the1970s and 1980s on micro-history and its focus on small subjects seem to fade away. Yet in the meantime historical micro-analysis has emerged as a useful method to approach a very diverse set of questions in different fields of social sciences and humanities.
Micro-analysis focuses on the reduction of scale as an instrument to answer theoretical general questions, maintaining a dynamic tension between ‘emic’ and ‘etic’ perspectives. In so doing, it offers a logical procedure to infer general considerations from specific cases, regardless of their statistical representativeness. At the same time, this approach implies a contingent view of the relationship between agency and structure, highlighting the creativity of the former and the complexity of the latter.
This workshop aims at discussing the contribution of micro-analytical historical approaches to research in different fields, from the most classical focus on local communities to the challenge of studying at micro level global connections and institutions, as well at the organizational level. Contributors are invited to address the
methodological issues implied in the use of a micro-analytical approach with reference to a diverse range of research fields.

Please send any enquiries to Giovanni Favero (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia) – gfavero@unive.it
Papers to be discussed (provisional titles):
Roser Cusso (Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne), Micro-history and the IO: the case of LoN’s minorities section.
Stephanie Decker (Aston Business School), Mothership reconnection: Microhistory and institutional work compared.
Giovanni Favero (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice), Putting micro-history at work: Exception and norm, observation and experiment.
Per Hansen (Copenhagen Business School), A sense-making approach to the response of central banks to the Austrian finacial crisis of 1931.
Miki Sugiura (Hosei University), Maintaining polycentric cities under de-urbanization: Local merchants’ real estate strategies in Bolsward, Friesland.
Discussants:
Monica Martinat (Université Lumière Lyon 2), Simona Cerutti (EHESS Paris), Andrew Popp (University of Liverpool), Francesca Trivellato (Yale University)
References:
Decker, Stephanie (2015) Mothership reconnection: Microhistory and institutional work compared. In T.G Weatherbee, P.G. McLaren, & A.J. Mills (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Management and Organizational History (pp. 222-237). London: Routledge.
Fellman, Susanna & Rahikainen, Marjatta (Eds.) (2012) Historical Knowledge: In Quest of Theory, Method and Evidence. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Magnússon, Sigurour G. & Szijártó, Istvan M. (2013) What is Microhistory? Theory and Methods. London: Routledge.
Trivellato, Francesca (2011). Is there a future for Italian microhistory in the age of global history? California Italian Studies Journal, 2(1).

CfP: Applied microhistory: A workshop

Applied microhistory: A workshop.

 Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Tuesday, 15 March 2016.

As time puts things into perspective, the heated and sometimes misleading historiographical debates of the 1970s and 1980s on micro-history and its focus on small subjects seem to fade away. Yet in the meantime historical micro-analysis has emerged as a useful method to approach a very diverse set of questions in different fields of social sciences and humanities.

Micro-analysis focuses on the reduction of scale as an instrument to answer theoretical general questions, maintaining a dynamic tension between ‘emic’ and ‘etic’ perspectives. In so doing, it offers a logical procedure to infer general considerations from specific cases, regardless of their statistical representativeness. At the same time, this approach implies a contingent view of the relationship between agency and structure, highlighting the creativity of the former and the complexity of the latter.

This workshop aims at discussing the contribution of micro-analytical historical approaches to research in different fields, from the most classical focus on local communities to the challenge of studying at micro level global connections and institutions, as well at the organizational level. Contributors are invited to address the methodological issues implied in the use of a micro-analytical approach with reference to a diverse range of research fields.

Scholars interested in participating should send a title and short abstract of their proposed contribution by January 15 to Giovanni Favero (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia) – gfavero@unive.it

References:

Decker, Stephanie (2015) Mothership reconnection: Microhistory and institutional work compared. In T.G Weatherbee, P.G. McLaren, & A.J. Mills (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Management and Organizational History (pp. 222-237). London: Routledge. https://goo.gl/hBJD7A

Fellman, Susanna & Rahikainen, Marjatta (Eds.) (2012) Historical Knowledge: In Quest of Theory, Method and Evidence. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. http://goo.gl/znojt0

Magnússon, Sigurour G. & Szijártó, Istvan M. (2013) What is Microhistory? Theory and Methods. London: Routledge. https://goo.gl/G9yzYa

Trivellato, Francesca (2011). Is there a future for Italian microhistory in the age of global history? California Italian Studies Journal, 2(1). http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0z94n9hq