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Writing biography: historians & their craft

Writing biography: historians & their craft

Ambrosius, Lloyd E., editor

The historian as biographer must resolve questions that reflect the dual challenge of telling history and telling lives: How does the biographer sort out the individual's role within the larger historical context? How do biographical studies relate to other forms of history? Should historians use different approaches to biography, depending on the cultures of their subjects? What are the appropriate primary sources and techniques that scholars should use in writing biographies in their respective fields? In Writing Biography, six prominent historians address these issues and reflect on their varied experiences and divergent perspectives as biographers. Shirley A. Leckie examines the psychological and personal connections between biographer and subject; R. Keith Schoppa considers the pervasive effect of culture on the recognition of individuality and the presentation of a life; Retha M. Warnicke explores past context and modern cultural biases in writing the biographies of Tudor women; John Milton Cooper Jr. discusses the challenges of writing modern biographies and the interplay of the biographer's own experiences; Nell Irvin Painter looks at the process of reconstructing a life when written documents are scant; and Robert J. Richards investigates the intimate relationship between life experiences and new ideas. Despite their broad range of perspectives, all six scholars agree on two central points: biography and historical analysis are inextricably linked, and biographical studies offer an important tool for analyzing historical questions

eBook, Electronic resource, Book. English.
Published Lincoln, Nebraska ; London, [England] : University of Nebraska Press 2004
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Statement of responsibility: edited by Lloyd E. Ambrosius
ISBN: 0803204124, 9780803204126, 9780803210660
Note: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Note: Description based on print version record.
Physical Description: 1 online resource (183 pages)
Subject: Biography as a literary form.

Author note

Lloyd E. Ambrosius is a professor of history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. His books include Wilsonianism: Woodrow Wilson and His Legacy in American Foreign Relations and Woodrow Wilson and the American Diplomatic Tradition.


"For many scholars, historical biography occupies a kind of no man's land, between history and literature. This elegant collection, based upon a symposium held in 2000 on 'biography and historical analysis' both explains and undermines such a stereotype."-David Watson, Literature and History
Literature and History||"These provocative essays contribute two useful points: biography is essential for historians; and historians must realize that biography and history remain joined at the historiographical hip. This reviewer adds a third point: historians should do more to introduce their students to the art of writing biographies. Such skills will be immensely helpful for preparing dissertations -- and first books -- but also will encourage young writers to include attention-whetting and illustrative pen portraits in their narrative, analytical, or theoretical histories."-Richard W. Etulain, American Historical Review
American Historical Review||"John Milton Cooper Jr. emphasizes the importance of experience and advises those who really want to become biographers to 'skip this chapter and get back to your research and writing.' To the contrary, I suggest that would-be biographers carefully read the chapter by Cooper and the other five as well. Each contains valuable insight into the biographical approach to history."-Randolph B. Campbell, Journal of Southern History
Journal of Southern History||"There is great diversity in this book. But the authors share concerns for methodological rigor, as well as an imaginative selection and use of sources. Their reflections on the nature and approach of historical biography are interesting, useful and stimulating."-Auto/Biography