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Writing Biography: Historians and Their Craft

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Details about Writing Biography: Historians and Their Craft:

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.

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