Carlo Ginzburg. the Cheese and the Worms, the Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller

By Frey, Linda S.; Frey, Marsha L. | Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, Spring 2014 | Go to article overview

Carlo Ginzburg. the Cheese and the Worms, the Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller


Frey, Linda S., Frey, Marsha L., Teaching History: A Journal of Methods


Carlo Ginzburg. The Cheese and the Worms, the Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller. Translated by John and Ann Tedeschi. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013. P. 174. Paper, $27.30; ISBN 13:978-1-4214-0988-7.

Colleagues will welcome this new edition of a classic work by noted Early Modernist, Carlo Ginzburg, who has taught at the University of Bologna, the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Sculoa Normale Superiore de Pisa. Ginzburg has also published works on witchcraft, banditry, and agrarian cults. This work, published first in Italian in 1976, comes in an English-language edition, paperback as well as electronic, with a new preface as well as updated and enhanced notes that will be particularly helpful to students. This translation continues to be both accurate and easy to follow. The 2013 preface underscores the importance of this work as an example of microhistory and corrects and enlarges what we know about the main protagonist, Domenico Scandello, called Menocchio, a miller who lived in the sixteenth century and was tried, found guilty, and executed by the Inquisition.

A mayor and father of eleven, Menocchio read widely and, unfortunately for him, did not hesitate to voice his unorthodox ideas. The number of books that this miller had access to and attempted to understand such as Mandeville's Travels, the Koran, the Decameron, and the Fioretto della Bibbia (a medieval chronicle) might surprise many. Ginzburg explains the social implications of this tale and the problematic position of the miller in the community. He explores the question of why the church proceeded so harshly against this insignificant and impoverished miller. …

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