A few decades ago historians borrowed an important equipment from biologists: the microscope. By doing so they introduced radical changes in historical writing and renewed immensely the perception of the past. The previously used paradigms proved to be insufficient to answer questions about individual ordinary heroes. The grand narratives neglected the “little people” as unimportant, passive participants of history who had rather been victims than creators of the surrounding economic, political and social conditions. Microhistorians changed the scale of their historical inquiry and moved from the macroscopic to the microscopic level in order to explore a radically novel view of society. They enlarged nuanced details which remained hidden from a distant perspective, and redefined the wider social panorama.
Microhistorians focused on the individual, on nameless, ordinary people and crafted their portraits through analyzing all possible documents that carried information about their chosen hero. For them, the time span of research is defined by the chosen person’s dates of birth and death. They started to explore their free will, internal motivations, decisions, feelings, thoughts and interpersonal relationships, which cannot be interpreted within large-scale social scientific models. They focused on minute details of individuals’ lives, communities and small events and put the human world under the microscope to reveal ordinary nuances that remained unknown for social scientists who aimed to construct grand narratives of total history.
The rich archival documentation of Kőszeg allows historians to investigate the lives of the owners and other inhabitants, tenants, maids, children of the buildings of the downtown. By reconstructing the everyday routines of the inhabitants, their communication and in general, their lifestyle as precisely as the archival sources allow that, we can gain a better understanding of the menu people of the past. By tracing down individual life stories and practices we can connect them to local identity building and shaping, and also its connections with more universal discourses as value systems, such as religion, Enlightenment, or nationalism.