The Pequod Review:
The Cheese and the Worms is a study of 16th century Friuli Italy through the perspective of a single common man: a miller named Menocchio who lived in the small village of Montereale, and who was tried and executed by the Inquisition. Ginzburg relies on extensive trial records and other extant materials to create a detailed history of Menocchio’s life, his reading habits, and especially his theory of the cosmos, which held that our world originated in a formless mass: "And out 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 book also becomes an interesting cultural history of Friuli Italy more generally, and the ways in which heresy was prosecuted. Ginzburg may not draw as many insights from the material as one might hope — and he sometimes draws conclusions that are not fully supported by the evidence — but this is nonetheless an excellent work of micro-history.