To these three-historians, psychoanalysts, and crime scene investigators-we might add, following Cliord Geertz, ethnographers. Easily the most abused concept in social thought is Geertz’s idea in Interpretation of Cultures (1974) of thick description. Urged on by empiricist culture, the trend among analytic social scientists is to assume that by “thick” is meant “abundant,” as if to pile fact upon fact would be sucient unto discovery. What Geertz meant-and he could not have been clearer-is that thick description is the patient digging through piles of evidence to nd the needle that is the clue to the haystack. In this respect Geertz, like Ginzburg, was close to virtual historians like Niall Ferguson and Charles Tilly. If not this, then what? What might have been had this or that event in the jumble of historical time not turned as it did? What if it had not rained on Waterloo June 17, 1815? Would Napoleon have lost it all the next day?