Skip to main content
CODE 108635
SEMESTER 2° Semester


The course analyzes some epistemological and methodological questions raised by social history and the criticisms addressed to it, and then addresses some research topics, including in particular citizenship from below, starting from the long-term practice of writing petitions to authorities, in different spatial-temporal contexts.



The course aims to examine the genesis and evolution of social history, firstly providing knowledge and critical tools to introduce students to the main methodological and epistemological issues raised by this peculiar historiographical approach; secondly, the course proposes to delve into some research topics and problems related to the history of identities and social relations in modern and contemporary history.


By covering some of the most significant debates that have revolved around certain dualisms (true/false, micro/macro, local/global, social/cultural, male/female, social/political, high/low, West/Third World, dominant/dominated, etc.), this course aims to consolidate students' critical and methodological awareness in order to approach the analysis of the contemporary age from a perspective that is sensitive to social relations situated in time. 
Secondly, through a focus on the practice of writing appeals to the authorities (a long-standing practice that does not disappear in the contemporary age and even reaches the present day), the course aims at investigating citizenship from below and the relationship between individuals and institutions in the contemporary age with a view that is sensitive to the social actors and their representations.
At the end of the course, students should be able to discuss critically and with appropriate language some epistemological and methodological questions that social history and the debate around it have contributed to forcefully emerge during the 20th century; they should be able to apply the issues discussed to the problem of writing appeals to the authorities in contemporary times.



A good knowledge of the key themes of contemporary history is essential. To consolidate basic skills we recommend A. M. Banti, Le questioni dell'età contemporanea, Laterza, Roma-Bari, 2010


Only for those who make an explicit and justified request to the lecturer at the beginning of the course, it will be possible to follow the lectures by streaming or using lecture recordings via the TEAMS platform. In this case, you will be considered a non-attending student and the syllabus for you will be the specific one for non-attending students (see Recommended Reading).

Seminars will be based on the analysis and collective discussion of texts and documents, so attendance will be crucial. Powerpoint presentations will be used and materials and readings will be uploaded on Aulaweb. It is recommended to follow the lecturer's communications via Aulaweb 2022/2023.


Over the course of the 20th century, social history has challenged the established narrative of history, highlighting new themes, new subjects, new methodological lenses through which to interrogate the sources, and prompting dialogue between the historical discipline and the other social sciences, sociology and anthropology above all. Although, even in the wake of the so-called 'cultural turn' and feminist critique between the 1980s and 1990s, the propositional capacity of this approach appeared to be in crisis, it is rather possible to assume that its field has been redefined and salutarily transformed in the light of these debates, without losing, however, a peculiar sensitivity to certain issues, a critical force and a drive towards methodological reflexivity that are still necessary.
The programme is divided into two parts.
The first part (see section A of the texts) is dedicated to the framing of general problems connected with the foundations of social history, with the debate generated by it and with its most recent evolution. The object of analysis will be some of the most important epistemological and methodological questions that this innovative approach posed in its time and, in changed forms, still poses to historical research. Through the examination of some significant historiographical essays, we will focus in particular on the debates that have revolved around some crucial binomials: true/false; micro/macro, local/global; social/cultural; public/private, male/female, social/political; individual/social; high/low, dominant/dominated, West/Third World.
The second part (cf. section B of the texts) is dedicated to the in-depth examination of a research topic that well exemplifies the still relevant potential of social history. Through the examination of the writings of supplication, petition, and appeal to the authorities in various contexts of the contemporary age, we will question the possibilities of a social history of citizenship, that is, a history capable of not separating the analysis of the policies of inclusion and exclusion of rights from that of the practices and forms of negotiation implemented by citizens in the context of their interactions with institutions. 



Assignements for attending students (9cfu):

1. Paolo Sorcinelli, Viaggio nella storia sociale, Bruno Mondadori 2011;

2. Carlotta Sorba, Federico Mazzini, La svolta culturale. Come è cambiata la pratica storiografica, Laterza 2021;

3. Articles listed below, Section A (see also Aulaweb).

4. Critical analysis of a petition (collaborative work in class, with the help of selected bibliography in Section B).

Section A, Articles (mandatory):

  • Fernand Braudel, Histoire et sciences sociales. La longue durée, in “Annales ESC”, n. 4, 1958.
  • Jacques Le Goff, Documento/Monumento, Enciclopedia Einaudi, Torino 1978 (versione ridotta).
  • Hayden White, The Burden of History, in “History and Theory”, vol. 5, n. 2, 1966.
  • Lawrence Stone, The Revival of Narrative. Reflections on a New Old History, in “Past & Present”, n. 85, 1979.
  • Carlo Ginzburg, Microstoria: due o tre cose che so di lei, in “Quaderni storici”, vol. 29, n. 86(2).
  • Giovanni Levi, Les usages de la biographie, in “Annales ESC”, n. 6, 1989.
  • Roger Chartier, Le monde comme représentation, in “Annales ESC”, n. 6, 1989.
  • Joan Wallach Scott, Il “genere”: un’utile categoria per l’analisi storica, in Joan W. Scott, Genere, politica, storia, a cura di Ida Fazio, con postfazione di Paola di Cori, pp. 31-63.
  • Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Under Western Eyes. Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses, in “boundary 2”, Spring-Autumn 1984, pp. 333-358.
  • Giovanni Levi, Frail Frontiers?, in “Past & Present”, Supplement 16, Global History and Microhistory, 2019.

SECTION B (short bibliography):


Attending students 6cfu: see 1); 3); 4) (Sorba/Mazzini to be excluded).

Non-attending students 9 cfu (including those who attend by streaming or using recordings) must prepare: texts and articles 1-2-3;

 + the following texts:

1. Camillo Zadra e Gianluigi Fait (a cura di), Deferenza, rivendicazione, supplica. Le lettere ai potenti, Treviso, Pagus, 1991.

2. Lex Heerma Van Voss (ed.), Petitions in Social History, “International Review of Social History”, vol. 46, 2001, Supplement 9.

Non attending students 6 fcfu (including those who attend seminars by streaming or using recordings via TEAMS) must prepare: 

-text and articles 1-3

-the following text:

1. Camillo Zadra e Gianluigi Fait (a cura di), Deferenza, rivendicazione, supplica. Le lettere ai potenti, Treviso, Pagus, 1991.

2. Lex Heerma Van Voss (ed.), Petitions in Social History, “International Review of Social History”, vol. 46, 2001, Supplement 9.


Exam Board



MATTEO CAPONI (Substitute)




The course will start on the 1st of March 2023

Class schedule

The timetable for this course is available here: Portale EasyAcademy



An oral examination will be aimed at verifying knowledge and assessing the ability to critically elaborate and the appropriateness of language. Active participation to seminars will also be positively evaluated


The examination board verifies the attainment of the learning objectives, taking into account the following factors: a) level of mastery of the fundamental notions; b) ability to apply the knowledge; c) ability to critically reason about the study carried out; d) ability to discursively organise the knowledge acquired and one's own considerations, using the specialised language of the discipline.

Exam schedule

Data Ora Luogo Degree type Note
06/06/2023 10:00 GENOVA Orale
20/06/2023 10:00 GENOVA Orale
05/07/2023 10:00 GENOVA Orale
08/09/2023 10:00 GENOVA Orale