We are unable to display your institutional affiliation without JavaScript turned on.
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE


Download PDF

The Shallow End of History?: The Substance and Future of Political Biography


The “Great Man” tradition of political life-writing in Britain originated in the Dictionary of National Biography (which commenced publication in 1882) and continues to this day in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. The commercial popularity of the genre has persisted despite the challenges of poststructuralism and the rise of cultural and gender history. Contemporary political biographers who wish to incorporate new methodologies in their work, however, could approach the lives of Great Men through a study of how they acquired their reputations, thereby helping to explicate not only the importance attached to political heroes in history but also the creation of political biography itself. One case in point is my biography of Giuseppe Garibaldi, which analyzes the construction of, and political strategy behind, the remarkable fame and popularity of this revolutionary leader.