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The Case of Adriano Sofri

Carlo Ginzburg, 3 April 1997

... The eruption of youthful insubordination in 1968 seemed to go beyond barriers of language, culture and class. Today, almost thirty years later, one is struck not only by the homogeneity of the movement, but also by the diversity of the traces it left behind in different countries. In Germany, for example, the effects of 1968 (or so it seems to a foreigner) were expressed mainly in people’s private lives and a gulf opened up between generations ...

The European (Re)discovery of the Shamans

Carlo Ginzburg, 28 January 1993

... In a book which appeared in Venice in 1565, later reprinted and translated many times, La Historia del mondo nuovo, the Milanese Girolamo Benzoni described what he had seen in the course of his 14 years of travelling in the ‘newly discovered islands and seas’ beyond the Ocean. About the island of Hispaniola, he related the following: In this island, as also in other provinces of these new countries, there are some bushes, not very large, like reeds, that produce a leaf in shape like that of the walnut, though rather larger, which (where it is used) is held in great esteem by the natives, and very much prized by the slaves whom the Spaniards have brought from Ethiopia ...

Do you want the allegory?

Charles Hope, 17 March 1983

Piero della Francesca’s ‘Baptism of Christ’ 
by Marilyn Aronberg Lavin.
Yale, 182 pp., £19.50, January 1982, 0 300 02619 6
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Indagini su Piero 
by Carlo Ginzburg.
Einaudi, 110 pp.
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Gentile da Fabriano 
by Keith Christiansen.
Chatto, 193 pp., £35, June 1982, 0 7011 2468 7
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... only in texts which postdate the picture by well over a decade. Two more theories are examined by Carlo Ginzburg. According to one of these, the angels represent Concord and the composition as a whole commemorates the short-lived union of the Greek and Latin Churches. The other hypothesis is that the angels signify Liberality and were shown in this way ...

The Force of the Anomaly

Perry Anderson: Carlo Ginzburg, 26 April 2012

Threads and Traces: True False Fictive 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Anne Tedeschi and John Tedeschi.
California, 328 pp., £20.95, January 2012, 978 0 520 25961 4
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... Carlo Ginzburg became famous as a historian for extraordinary discoveries about popular belief, and what was taken by its persecutors to be witchcraft, in the early modern period. The Night Battles and The Cheese and the Worms, each a case-study from the north-east corner of Italy, were followed by a synthesis of Eurasian sweep in Ecstasies ...

Where wolf?

John Gallagher: Everyone knows I’m a werewolf, 7 April 2022

Old Thiess, a Livonian Werewolf: A Classic Case in Comparative Perspective 
by Carlo Ginzburg and Bruce Lincoln.
Chicago, 289 pp., £20, March 2020, 978 0 226 67441 4
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... of Old Thiess and the werewolf stories of premodern Europe are recurring motifs in the work of Carlo Ginzburg, and they tell us something about that work’s ambition and breadth of reference. When History Workshop Journal published a Ginzburg essay in 1980, the translator, Anna Davin, explained that ‘this article ...

Being a benandante

Anthony Pagden, 2 February 1984

The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agrarian Cults in the 16th and 17th Centuries 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by John Tedeschi and Anne Tedeschi.
Routledge, 209 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 7100 9507 4
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... of those who had died ‘before their time’. Being a benandante was clearly a risky business. Carlo Ginzburg’s account of this Friulian ‘fertility cult’, as he calls it, first appeared in Italian as I Benandanti in 1964, and has now been skilfully, even elegantly translated into English by John and Anne Tedeschi. Night Battles follows the ...


Perry Anderson, 8 November 1990

Storia Notturna: Una Decifrazione del Sabba 
by Carlo Ginzburg.
Einaudi, 320 pp., lire 45,000, August 1989, 9788806115098
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... Carlo Ginzburg has many claims to be considered the outstanding European historian of the generation which came of age in the late Sixties. Certainly few have equalled him in originality, variety and audacity. He made his debut with a spectacular discovery: the first, and still only, documented case of a magical fertility and funerary cult in the countryside of Early Modern Europe, the trances of the Benandanti in Friuli, stumbled upon unawares by the Roman Inquisition ...


Christopher Hill, 6 November 1980

The Cheese and the Worms: the Cosmos of a 16th-Century Miller 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by John Tedeschi and Anne Tedeschi.
Routledge, 177 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 7100 0591 1
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... This is not quite another Montaillou. Professor Ginzburg’s book deals with an isolated heretical individual, not with a heretical community. But it shares some of the qualities of that marvellous book. It reveals an almost equally startling body of wholly unorthodox ideas existing within a nominally Roman Catholic society ...

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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... way one utterance, aloud or on paper, resonates with others, have been raised by scholars such as Carlo Ginzburg and Natalie Zemon Davis, 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 contents? What forces shaped ...

Momentary Substances

Nicholas Penny, 21 November 1985

Patterns of Intention 
by Michael Baxandall.
Yale, 148 pp., £12.50, September 1985, 0 300 03465 2
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The Enigma of Piero 
by Carlo Ginzburg, translated by Martin Ryle and Kate Soper.
Verso, 164 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 86091 116 0
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... appropriate in medals and in court masques and frescoes. One of the books which Hope discussed, Carlo Ginzburg’s Indagini su Piero has now appeared in translation. It includes much valuable research on the involvement of Piero’s probable patrons in the great political, religious and cultural events of the time – the union of the Greek and Latin ...

In the Know

Simon Schaffer, 10 November 1994

Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture 
by William Eamon.
Princeton, 490 pp., £38.50, July 1994, 0 691 03402 8
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The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire 
by Pamela Smith.
Princeton, 308 pp., £30, July 1994, 0 691 05691 9
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... access to the singular facts of nature as a means to legitimate its power. Fifteen years ago, Carlo Ginzburg offered a radical interpretation of this motif of the clue, arguing that techniques for reading the signs were primordial, as old as hunting itself. Divination, common to medical diagnostics and astrology, artistic connoisseurship and ...

Grassi gets a fright

Peter Burke, 7 July 1988

Galileo: Heretic 
by Pietro Redondi, translated by Raymond Rosenthal.
Allen Lane, 356 pp., £17.95, April 1988, 0 7139 9007 4
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... this account. Redondi’s book first appeared in a series of ‘microhistories’ edited by Carlo Ginzburg, a series of studies employing the concepts of anthropologists and concerned with history from below, often at village level. At first sight, few figures appear more remote from microhistory than Galileo, although he, like ...


John Bossy: Simon Forman, 22 February 2001

The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman 
by Barbara Howard Traister.
Chicago, 260 pp., £19, February 2001, 0 226 81140 9
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Dr Simon Forman: A Most Notorious Physician 
by Judith Cook.
Chatto, 228 pp., £18.99, January 2001, 0 7011 6899 4
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... may have been a one-off city goat, as his contemporary the Italian miller Menocchio, recorded by Carlo Ginzburg, may have been a one-off village sceptic; but you can’t deny that he provides a heap of evidence about the penchant for adultery of Elizabethan wives. And just as Rowse’s speculations about Emilia Bassano were not absurd, since Emilia was ...

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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... confessions were simply words put into their mouths by their torturers. In Night Battles (1966) Carlo Ginzburg had already demonstrated that in Friuli a peculiar group of people, the benandanti, believed they had the power to leave their bodies and gather together to do battle against evil. Without torture (in Italy and Spain the Inquisition was ...
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... Witchcraft, for example – with the researches of historians of witchcraft and exorcism, such as Carlo Ginzburg, Keith Thomas and the late Perkin Walker, and with the theories of anthropologists concerned with possession in contemporary societies, from Alfred Métraux on Haiti to Bruce Kapferer on Sri Lanka. In a similar way, Greenblatt’s essay on ...

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