Relationship of history and biography

Biography - Wikipedia

relationship of history and biography

When studying literature, biography and its relationship to literature is often a subject of literary Biographical fiction is a type of historical fiction that takes a historical individual and recreates elements of his or her life, while telling a fictional. Biography has been considered as outside the discipline of history by many historians. Since the chronological framework of the study is pre-deter-mined, given. It enables us to "grasp history and biography and the relations between the two within society" (). In other words, it is the ability to understand how.

His achievement as a biographical artist will be measured, in great part, by his ability to suggest the sweep of chronology and yet to highlight the major patterns of behaviour that give a life its shape and meaning. Kinds Biographies are difficult to classify. It is easily recognizable that there are many kinds of lifewriting, but one kind can easily shade into another; no standard basis for classification has yet been developed.

A fundamental division offers, however, a useful preliminary view: Firsthand knowledge The biography that results from what might be called a vital relationship between the biographer and his subject often represents a conjunction of two main biographical forces: This kind of biography is, in one form or another, to be found in most of the cultures that preserve any kind of written biographical tradition, and it is commonly to be found in all ages from the earliest literatures to the present.

In its first manifestationsit was often produced by, or based upon the recollections of, the disciples of a religious figure—such as the biographical fragments concerning Buddha, portions of the Old Testamentand the Christian gospels. Biography based on a living relationship has produced a wealth of masterpieces: Indeed, what is generally acknowledged as the greatest biography ever written belongs to this class: Research Biographies that are the result of research rather than firsthand knowledge present a rather bewildering array of forms.

biography | Definition & Examples |

First, however, there should be mentioned two special kinds of biographical activity. Reference collections Since the late 18th century, the Western world—and, in the 20th century, the rest of the world as well—has produced increasing numbers of compilations of biographical facts concerning both the living and the dead. These collections stand apart from literature. Character sketches The short life, however, is a genuine current in the mainstream of biographical literature and is represented in many ages and cultures.

Biography in literature - Wikipedia

Excluding early quasi-biographical materials about religious or political figures, the short biography first appeared in China at about the end of the 2nd century bce, and two centuries later it was a fully developed literary form in the Roman Empire. These works established a quite subtle mingling of character sketch with chronological narrative that has ever since been the dominant mark of this genre.

Further classification of biographies compiled by research can be achieved by regarding the comparative objectivity of approach. For convenience, six categories, blending one into the other in infinite gradations and stretching from the most objective to the most subjective, can be employed. The author of such a work, avoiding all forms of interpretation except selection—for selection, even in the most comprehensive accumulation, is inevitable—seeks to unfold a life by presenting, usually in chronological order, the paper remains, the evidences, relating to that life.

This biographer takes no risks but, in turn, seldom wins much critical acclaim: During the 19th century, the Life of Milton: A History 10 vol. Nicolay and John Hayoffer representative samples. Critical biography This second category, scholarly and critical, unlike the first, does offer a genuine presentation of a life.

Yet such biography, though not taking great risks, does employ the arts of selection and arrangement. The densest of these works, completely dominated by fact, have small appeal except to the specialist.

Those written with the greatest skill and insight are in the first rank of modern life writing. The critical biography aims at evaluating the works as well as unfolding the life of its subject, either by interweaving the life in its consideration of the works or else by devoting separate chapters to the works.

Critical biography has had its share of failures: It has to its credit, however, such fine biographies as Arthur S. Link, Wilson 5 vol. Interpretative biography This fourth category of life writing is subjective and has no standard identity. She molds her sources into a vivid narrative, worked up into dramatic scenes that always have some warranty of documentation—the dialoguefor example, is sometimes devised from the indirect discourse of letter or diary. They first came out in the Nigerian historical journal Tarikh, under the editorship of Obaro Ikime.

Inthey were collected into a single volume, Leadership in 19th Century Africa, also edited by Ikime. Apart from the fact that each was presented in a separate A5-size paperback, the format was similar to all the others.

relationship of history and biography

Each section of the essay that follows takes this collective biographical venture as the starting point for further exploration of the nature of biography in Africa. This was a period of dramatic expansion of African history into university and college courses in Europe, North America, and across independent Africa. In the post—Second World War period, it was an area of inquiry that had to push its way in.

relationship of history and biography

These biographies were self-consciously presented as a means of asserting African agency in the making of a rich and long history. Although revealing a strong West African orientation, every part of the continent was represented, from the Mediterranean littoral to the southeastern seaboard.

The message was clear: While the threatened loss of autonomy and subjugation to European rule was a critical moment in African history, it was but one element in a complex interplay of forces stretching further back in time, such as state building and the desire for modernization and reform.

This was a time when a Pan-Africanist view of an essential African unity seemed a vital ingredient of decolonization, not only of territory but also of minds. In more recent decades, the origins of this idea have been questioned. One remarkable example from the early s is T.

Sadly, despite the promise of its title, it seems to have appeared only two or three times. Johannesburg-based Skota sorely lacked sponsorship at a time when segregationist rule was being applied ever more harshly and it proved impossible to sustain his biographical dictionary. Du Bois made clear his approach to compilation of his intended multivolume Encyclopaedia Africana: Yet another unrelated collective biography appeared in the s, the Dictionary of African Historical Biography.

The s saw the launch of a further large-scale biographical endeavor: Overseen by the Centre for Global Christianity and Mission at Boston University School of Theology, its purpose is to gather the biographical detail of those who have shaped the character and growth of Christianity in Africa.

Foreign missionaries may have brought Christianity to Africa, but Africans have been the main agency in its propagation; the resulting growth and variety constitute remarkable social phenomena. The DACB is notable for its methodology and goals.

Oral as well as written sources are represented; although mainly in English, it is multilingual and covers the earliest times onward, over the whole continent.

African Biography and Historiography

It works in partnership with universities and theological colleges, many of them in Africa, and crowdsourcing is encouraged, despite its acknowledged challenges: While scholarly exactitude marks some of the entries, a large number have been contributed by persons who are neither scholars nor historians.

The stories are non-proprietary, belonging to the people of Africa as a whole. Since this is a first generation tool, and on the assumption that some memory is better than total amnesia, the checkered quality of the entries has been tolerated and even welcomed. In their preface, they claim for the ODAB the most comprehensive continental coverage including Africa north of the Sahara available to date, a degree and depth of coverage that will dramatically increase our understanding of the lives and achievements of individual Africans who lived across the full range of continental Africa from ancient times to the present.

The publication of such a reference work, we perceived, could have a transformative impact on teaching and research in African studies, narrating the full history of the African continent through the collective lives of the women and men who made that history.

The quintessential form of collective biography is thus the biographical dictionary, presenting a number of microbiographies based on a common theme. Such themes might include eminence or belonging, which provide a criterion for appreciating the collection as a whole. As such, they represent an attempt to produce patriotic historical narratives, showcasing real individuals whose achievements would instruct as well as inspire the young.

All over the continent, the tradition of biographical series—inherently or explicitly collective, for both children and adults—has continued. Kwame Nkrumah had founded Panaf Books infollowing the coup in Ghana and the refusal of his London publishers to handle his books thereafter.

They appeared throughout the s. Most had to confront the pressures of colonial advances on their territories. Together, they demonstrated many creative responses to the challenges facing them. It was their public deeds that mattered and that had made them powerful, exemplary, or exceptional on the historical stage.

relationship of history and biography

They were also all male; either there was insufficient knowledge at the time about women who had played significant leadership roles, or they had not been considered significant enough for inclusion. In any case, in the s overwhelming maleness dominated scholarship, as well as understandings of African leadership.

Like their male counterparts, they were somehow extraordinary, perhaps even doubly so, given the subjugation of women in many of the societies represented. Macaulay established the Nigeria National Democratic Party in the early s and dominated Lagos politics for the following two decades.

He is regarded by many as the founder of Nigerian nationalism. As a young Aina Moore mused: While some regard him as the greatest enemy of his country, from which he becomes detached, and for which he can only develop a sophisticated form of patriotism: Born in the Gold Coast later Ghana and educated by Wesleyan missionaries, Aggrey traveled to the United States to complete his education.

Biography in literature

He attended Hood Theological Seminary and later Columbia University, where his abilities as an educationist and communicator were recognized.

Reflecting the long engagement of Europe with the southern tip of the continent were a number of biographies of white South African politicians, such as the voluminous studies of Jan Smuts the anti-colonial rebel who became a world statesman and those of leading liberals such as Saul Solomon and Jan Hofmeyr. Mortal or Miracle Maker? The case of Nelson Mandela reveals the reverential as well as the critical possibilities of writing about a living subject.

Inas he assumed office, he published an autobiography co-written with Time editor Richard Stengel: Long Walk to Freedom. The American biography followed the English model, incorporating Thomas Carlyle 's view that biography was a part of history. Carlyle asserted that the lives of great human beings were essential to understanding society and its institutions.

relationship of history and biography

While the historical impulse would remain a strong element in early American biography, American writers carved out a distinct approach.

What emerged was a rather didactic form of biography, which sought to shape the individual character of a reader in the process of defining national character. The first modern biography, and a work which exerted considerable influence on the evolution of the genre, was James Boswell 's The Life of Samuel Johnsona biography of lexicographer and man-of-letters Samuel Johnson published in Itself an important stage in the development of the modern genre of biography, it has been claimed to be the greatest biography written in the English language.

Boswell's work was unique in its level of research, which involved archival study, eye-witness accounts and interviews, its robust and attractive narrative, and its honest depiction of all aspects of Johnson's life and character - a formula which serves as the basis of biographical literature to this day.

A distinction between mass biography and literary biography began to form by the middle of the century, reflecting a breach between high culture and middle-class culture. However, the number of biographies in print experienced a rapid growth, thanks to an expanding reading public.

This revolution in publishing made books available to a larger audience of readers. In addition, affordable paperback editions of popular biographies were published for the first time. Periodicals began publishing a sequence of biographical sketches. Autobiographies were written by authors, such as Charles Dickens who incorporated autobiographical elements in his novels and Anthony Trollopehis Autobiography appeared posthumously, quickly becoming a bestseller in London [8]philosophers, such as John Stuart Millchurchmen — John Henry Newman — and entertainers — P.

Human behavior would be explained through Darwinian theories. The development of psychoanalysis led to a more penetrating and comprehensive understanding of the biographical subject, and induced biographers to give more emphasis to childhood and adolescence.

Clearly these psychological ideas were changing the way biographies were written, as a culture of autobiography developed, in which the telling of one's own story became a form of therapy.

Eminent Victorians set the standard for 20th century biographical writing, when it was published in British critic Lytton Strachey revolutionized the art of biographical writing with his work Eminent Victoriansconsisting of biographies of four leading figures from the Victorian era: His narrative demolished the myths that had built up around these cherished national heroes, whom he regarded as no better than a "set of mouth bungled hypocrites".

The book achieved worldwide fame due to its irreverent and witty style, its concise and factually accurate nature, and its artistic prose.