Biography And History

1433 Words6 Pages
The book, Biography and History by Barbara Caine, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2010. This work explored and discussed the complex relationship between history and biography, the changes within the field of biography over time, and acts as an essential introduction for contemporary biographers. While there are many areas that are repeated and stressed throughout the book, the main argument supports the legitimacy of biography as a field both within the field of history and in its own right. Although in the recent past, the trend amongst historians was to question the validity of biography as a field, due to the source matter’s changing reliability and a number of other factors, Caine vindicated the worth and legitimacy of biography…show more content…
The first section, Historians and the Question of Biography, dealt with how history has viewed biography and the overall relationship between the two. A large portion of this chapter’s discussion related to studying the relationship between history and biography in the classical and medieval periods, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and in the twentieth century to highlight the notable changes throughout history. Other than accomplishing that, the purpose of this chapter was also to act as a framework for the rest of the work. The specific sections within this chapter were titled: “Introduction,” “Biography and history in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,” “Thomas Carlyle and the idea of biography as history,” “The professionalism of history,” “Marxist history and the question of biography,” “Biography and history in the twentieth century,” and “Changing ideas about the role of biography in…show more content…
Also important to note, it is brief and well structured, which is extremely useful for the busy undergraduate or graduate student looking to start their path in the field of biography. However, it had its faults in that it was often repetitive, with themes such as gender being mentioned throughout the book inside other section themes, and whole arguments were repeated in multiple locations. For my research, the contemporary practices mentioned in the fifth and sixth chapters were particularly useful. Advice on how faults or inconsistencies can be used for analyzing how the person wants to be seen along with the section on the importance of psychoanalysis in biography helped to influence my second thesis topic. Exploring how Sayyid Qutb’s childhood search for praise may have influenced his transition into radical Islamic ideology is much easier done with the explanations from the fifth chapter in particular. Overall, although the book has its faults I enjoyed the book, value what it brings to the field, and most certainly would recommend it to someone starting out in the field of
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