In his 1966 book, The Night Battles, Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg detailed the lives of peasant people who were marginalized in their own society and have been all but forgotten in ours. He created a new school of study, microhistory, which has influenced thinkers from a range of different disciplines.
The Night Battles looks at the witch trials of a small group of peasants in 16th-century Italy who believed they turned into animals at night to ward off evil spirits and safeguard their crops. Ginzburg's analysis of available primary sources creates a remarkably detailed picture of this shamanism, which he claims could be traced back as far as 1,500 years.
Ginzburg issued a challenge to late-20th-century academic norms - and pioneered new historical research techniques in doing so. Today, listeners turn to The Night Battles not only for its account of a series of witch trials but for Ginzburg's groundbreaking analysis of the ways prevailing ideologies reinterpret, create, and impose new meanings on popular practices.
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