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[Microhistory or biography? On the meaning of the life of Joannes Groenevelt].

Authors
Type
Published Article
Journal
Gewina
Publication Date
Volume
23
Issue
1
Pages
43–55
Identifiers
PMID: 11625691
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

The main goal of the microstoria, a genre that was coined by Carlo Ginzburg in his book about the world view of a sixteenth-century Italian heretic, seems to be to criticize the grand narratives of history. By zooming in on the life of atypical persons, microhistory sets out to show that historiography has a tendency to blur the complexities of the past by reducing it to a set of sweeping statements about kings, generals, and geniuses. Recently, Harold Cook has written a book about Joannes Groenevelt, an 'ordinary doctor' who lived at the end of the seventeenth century, who moved in the circles of the Royal Society and who was found guilty of malpractice by the London College of Physicians. Although Cook claims his book to be a microhistory, Groenvelt was far from 'atypical'. Instead, he is being presented as an exponent of that important watershed in the history of science labelled 'Scientific Revolution'. It is argued that Cook's book - which is a traditional biography rather than a microhistory -- is important for at least two reasons. First, because it shows how the life of an ordinary physician can shed light on the nature of medicine and its workings in society; and second, by playing with dormant notions about the period, it shows the heuristic value of period labels like the Scientific Revolution.

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