Biography Between Structure and Agency

Studies in German History

Book 9
Berghahn Books
Free sample

While bookstore shelves around the world have never ceased to display best-selling “life-and-letters” biographies in prominent positions, the genre became less popular among academic historians during the Cold War decades. Their main concern then was with political and socioeconomic structures, institutions, and organizations, or—more recently—with the daily lives of ordinary people and small communities. The contributors to this volume—all well known senior historians—offer self-critical reflections on problems they encountered when writing biographies themselves. Some of them also deal with topics specific to Central Europe, such as the challenges of writing about the lives of both victims and perpetrators. Although the volume concentrates on European historiography, its strong methodological and conceptual focus will be of great interest to non-European historians wrestling with the old “structure-versus-agency” question in their own work.

Contributors: Volker R. Berghahn, Hartmut Berghoff, Hilary Earl, Jan Eckel, Willem Frijhoff, Ian Kershaw, Simone Lässig, Karl Heinrich Pohl, John C. G. Röhl, Angelika Schaser, Joachim Radkau, Cornelia Rauh-Kühne, Mark Roseman, Christoph Strupp and Michael Wildt.

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About the author

Volker Berghahn is the Seth Low Professor of History at Columbia University where he moved in 1998 from Brown University, after a longer spell of teaching at the University of Warwick in England. The author of more than a dozen books, he has long been interested in the challenges of modern biography. In 1993, he published a study of the industrialist Otto A. Friedrich and his role in the reconstruction of West German industry after 1945. His America and the Intellectual Cold Wars in Europe uses Shepard Stone—renowned journalist, Ford Foundation officer in charge of its European and international programs, and the first director of the Berlin Aspen Institute—as a window to the trans-Atlantic world of American and European intellectuals and scholars, many of whom were associated with the Congress for Cultural Freedom during the Cold War.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Berghahn Books
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Published on
Sep 1, 2008
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780857450494
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Historiography
Social Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In imagining history, one must inevitably rely on its textual representations, whether fictitious or supposedly “objective”, yet always subject to the constraints and conventions of textuality. Still, it is precisely by exploiting and consciously relying on the textual in the presentation of the past that contemporary authors, including politicians and makers of history, strive to provide it with current significance, emotional impact and universal meaning. The study of such attempts benefits from a variety of perspectives, encompassing not only classical, but also popular texts and media.

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