The Cheese and The Worms by Carlo Ginzburg

The Cheese and The Worms by Carlo Ginzburg – The cosmos of a sixteenth-century Miller – is a book first published in 1976. It is one of the first and most important books of microhistory. Microhistory is a mode of historical writing which focuses on a small and particular object or an unknown person to shed light into a wider topic. On my blog there are a lot of microhistories, such as the histories of salt, gin, chocolate, mămăligă, confinement, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, or The History of the London Underground Map.

Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms was new and interesting and against the norm when it was published. The book is about Menocchio, a miller from an Italian town who was tried by the Inquisition in the 16th century. Menocchio had a rather unique version of the idea of creation: “All was chaos, that is earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and of that bulk a mass formed—just as cheese is made out of milk—and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels.”

The Cheese and The Worms by Carlo Ginzburg

It is clear why he was tried by the Inquisition. I imagine the priests were appalled by the comparison between worms and angels. The book is short and very interesting. Menocchio was literate, owned and borrowed books, and was influenced by what he was reading. Ginzburg uses the records of the trials (there were 2) to create a fascinating account of what was happening at that time.

This book is a must read for anyone who studies history and microhistory, as a mode of writing or as methodology. At the same time, despite the book being from the 1970s, it is so well written and the subject is interesting that I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes to read about unusual accounts. I enjoyed the book, so do read it if you are curious about it.

The Cheese and The Worms by Carlo Ginzburg

Details about the picture: –
My rating: 5/5 Stars
Would I recommend it: yes
Published by: Johns Hopkins University Press
Year it was published: 1992 (first published in 1976)
Format: Paperback
Genre(s): History – Microhistory
Pages: 208
About the author: Born in 1939, he is the son of of Italian-Ukranian translator Leone Ginzburg and Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg. Historian whose fields of interest range from the Italian Renaissance to early modern European History, with contributions in art history, literary studies, popular cultural beliefs, and the theory of historiography.
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2 thoughts on “The Cheese and The Worms by Carlo Ginzburg”

  • I’m not sure I’ve heard the term “microhistory” before, but I’ve certainly read some. I enjoy detailed histories of things. This sounds like an interesting book, but I’d have to get past seeing the word “worm” so much. Worms are one of my irrational fears.
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    • It does sound like an unusual title, but it makes sense. The book is very good, I think you would like it, if you can ignore the w-word. 🙂

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