In HIS 427, you will be writing intellectual biographies about historians and analyzing and summarizing the work of these historians.
- Intellectual biographies offer insights into 1) the person’s life; 2) the intellectual and creative work of the person; 3) the relationship between life and work; and 4) the significance of the life and work historically. Ask yourself the following questions: Why is this historian important? What has this historian contributed to his/her field?
An intellectual biography places the individual and his work into context, describing the impact of the historian in his/her field, the impact that other historians and historical works had on her/his work, and the impact that world events and the individual’s life experiences had on his/her work. Was he/she a pioneer in a particular field? Was she/he part of an intellectual school or cultural movement? Was her/his work important because it represents something bigger, because it was utterly unique, because she/he made a contribution at a crucial moment in time, or for some other reason? Did the times or world events have an impact on this historian and his/her writing?
In addition to profiling an individual, placing him/her in context, and assessing his/her intellectual legacy, your intellectual biography should tell readers the conclusions you have drawn from reading this historian’s work. Summarize the book you read for this assignment and define the author’s major points. Place the book in context. How does it differ from books on the same subject that preceded or followed it. In this sense, an intellectual biography is just like any other historical essay or exercise in critical analysis; you should formulate an argument and present evidence to support it.