Historical Methods | History 97i | What is Biography?





History 97 is a team-taught introduction to the discipline of history. It is required for all sophomore History concentrators. Six different seminars are offered. In each, over the course of the term, you will explore the historian’s craft by studying and practicing a particular method. In my seminar, we will consider the methods used by biographers. Biographers write histories of lives. Their storytelling is often novelistic but their standards of evidence are those of the historian. They confront distinctive questions: What lives are worth writing? What is the relationship between the individual and society? What rules govern the relationship between biographers and their subjects? How has the art of biography changed over the centuries, and what forces have driven those changes? In this section, we’ll read both notable biographies and the critical literature on biography as a genre that is often seen to be at odds with the conventions of other kinds of historical writing.