1st Edition

The Biographical Turn Lives in history

Edited By Hans Renders, Binne de Haan, Jonne Harmsma Copyright 2017
    238 Pages
    by Routledge

    238 Pages
    by Routledge

    The Biographical Turn showcases the latest research through which the field of biography is being explored. Fifteen leading scholars in the field present the biographical perspective as a scholarly research methodology, investigating the consequences of this bottom-up approach and illuminating its value for different disciplines.

    While biography has been on the rise in academia since the 1980s, this volume highlights the theoretical implications of the biographical turn that is changing the humanities. Chapters cover subjects such as gender, religion, race, new media and microhistory, presenting biography as as a research methodology suited not only for historians but also for explorations in areas including literature studies, sociology, economics and politics. By emphasizing agency, the use of primary sources and the critical analysis of context and historiography, this book demonstrates how biography can function as a scholarly methodology for a wide range of topics and fields of research.

    International in scope, The Biographical Turn emphasizes that the individual can have a lasting impact on the past and that lives that are now forgotten can be as important for the historical narrative as the biographies of kings and presidents. It is a valuable resource for all students of biography, history and historical theory.


    List of contributors


    1 The Biographical Turn: Biography as Critical Method in the Humanities and in Society

    Hans Renders, Binne de Haan and Jonne Harmsma


    Section 1: The Biographical Turn in the Humanities

    2 Biography as Corrective

    Nigel Hamilton

    3 The Plurality of the Past: Historical Time and the Rediscovery of Biography

    Sabina Loriga

    4 The Life Is Never Over: Biography as a Microhistorical Approach

    Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon

    5 Personalized History: Biofiction, Source Criticism and the Topicality of Biography

    Binne de Haan

    6 The Life Effect: Literature Studies and the Biographical Perspective

    Joanny Moulin

    7 Biography as a Concept of Thought: On the Premises of Biographical Research and Narrative

    Christian Klein


    Section 2: The Biographical Turn in Fields of Knowledge

    8 Biographies as Multipliers: The First World War as Turning Point in the Lives of Modernist Artists

    Hans Renders and Sjoerd van Faassen

    9 ‘Honest Politics’: A Biographical Perspective on Economic Expertise as a Political Style

    Jonne Harmsma

    10 Rediscovering Agency in the Atlantic: A Biographical Approach Linking Entrepreneurial Spirit and Overseas Companies

    Kaarle Wirta

    11 Building Bridges to Past Centuries: Religion and Empathy in Early Modern Biography

    Enny de Bruijn

    12 Palatable and Unpalatable Leaders: Apartheid and Post-Apartheid Afrikaner Biography

    Lindie Koorts


    Section 3: The Biographical Turn in Academia and Society

    13 Biography Is Not A Selfie: Authorization as the Creeping Transition from Autobiography to Biography

    Hans Renders

    14 What Are We Turning From? Research and Ideology in Biography and Life Writing

    Craig Howes

    15 Liberation From Low Dark Space: Biography Beside and Beyond the Academy

    Carl Rollyson

    16 From Academic Historian to Popular Biographer: Musings on the Practical Poetics of Biography

    Debby Applegate





    Hans Renders is Professor of History and the Director of the Institute of Biography at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. His publications include Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing (2014).  He is the cofounder of Biographers International Organization (BIO), the Vice-President of the Biography Society/La Société de Biographie and a jury member for the Plutarch Award for best American biography. 

    Binne de Haan is a research staff member of the Biography Institute at the University of Groningen. His publications include Theoretical Discussions of Biography: Approaches from History, Microhistory, and Life Writing (2014), and an English translation of his PhD thesis Van Kroon tot Bastaard (From Prince to Pauper: Biography and the Individual Perspective in Historiography) is forthcoming.

    Jonne Harmsma is a PhD researcher in the Biography Institute at the University of Groningen and is working on a biography of the Dutch Prime Minister and Central Bank President Jelle Zijlstra.

    "This book provides compelling evidence of the lively current state of biographical studies and its power to raise new questions about the nature and course of historical change by focusing on the relationship between individual determination, creativity, or enterprise and larger social, economic, and political forces."

    Lee V. Chambers, University of Colorado Boulder, USA