Walking the Terrain of History with a Faulty Map

Margaret C. Jacob
2015 BMGN: Low Countries Historical Review  
s superb new book, Cunegonde's Kidnapping, offers an opportunity to access the value of Jonathan Israel's rigid distinction between the so-called moderate and radical Enlightenments. Sometimes micro-histories expose the dangers of macro-histories founded not on historical reality but on the prejudices of the historian. Wandelen over het terrein van de geschiedenis met een verkeerde kaart Benjamin Kaplans indrukwekkende Cunegonde's Kidnapping biedt een mogelijkheid om Jonathan Israels strakke
more » ... Israels strakke scheiding tussen zogenoemde gematigde en radicale Verlichting op waarde te schatten. Micro-geschiedenissen kunnen soms de gevaren blootleggen van macro-geschiedenissen die niet op de historische werkelijkheid zijn gebaseerd, maar op vooroordelen van de historicus. We all enter the age of Enlightenment with preconceived notions and methodological habits. Studies of eighteenth-century life and thought range from the massive and general to the enticing micro-history, rich in local characters and color. Both approaches have validity; indeed the latter can cast doubt on the former and vice-versa. Do all the splendid generalizations offered by historians of the macro-view hold up when confronting the reality of life in eighteenth-century towns and villages? Perhaps the Enlightenment only mattered in the big cities where reading books -especially heretical ones -was commonplace. This is one of various questions raised by Benjamin Kaplan's minutely researched book. His book on the young Catholic girl Cunegonde, living in the borderland between the Dutch Republic and the Holy Roman Empire, raises the issue of the tension between the macro vision and the lived reality of a particular small town. Its deeply religious tensions posed challenges to walking the terrain of history with a faulty map 73 jacob
doi:10.18352/bmgn-lchr.10104 fatcat:i6p5pn3wqvbi7kc3cklimy6he4