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Biography and Social History: An Intimate Relationship

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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 the subject's life, it has been argued, it does not meet the fundamental historical test of analyzing historical change across time. Others, particularly literary critics, have suggested that the biographical emphasis on the personal is itself, at root, invalid. This comment instead suggests that the recent turn to biography in labor and social history is most welcome, for it creates the possibility of a broader understanding of the interplay between an individual and social forces beyond one's ability to control. But to write a social biography demands a disciplinary rigor and thorough research effort that treats equally seriously both the subject and the context that shapes that life.

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2004-11-01

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biography; social history; labor history; social change

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Required Publisher Statement: © The Australian Society for the Study of Labour History. Article published as: Salvatore, N. (2004), ‘Biography and Social History: An Intimate Relationship’, Labour History, No. 87, 187-192.

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