Biography and History

Speakers: Erla Hulda Halldórsdóttir (University of Iceland) and Svante Norrhem (Lund University)

29.09.2017 | Anja Elley

Dato tor 26 okt
Tid 10:00 14:00
Sted Aarhus University, building 1325, room 220

The Research Unit for Life Writing at the History Department of Aarhus University holds a seminar followed by a Ph.D. workshop, 26 October 2017.

The genre of biography represents a long debated tradition in historical writing. With the rise of social history, gender history, and “history from below”, personal sources (i.e. ego-documents) were accepted into historical writing, but the perspective of micro history also introduced ordinary people and their everyday as important in and of themselves without the need to attach them to a grand historical narrative.

This seminar will explore some of the unresolved issues involved with writing a biography. Should the life stories of individuals or groups be used to cast light on larger historical events or should the historical subjects be allowed to stand for themselves? What, if anything, can the life story of an individual, a couple, or a family say about social and cultural dynamics? Also, we will ask if the same rules apply to writers of grand historical narratives and writers of biographies. How much should the researcher insert himself/herself into the writing of a biography? Is it, for example, possible to write an academic historical biography of one’s own family?

The presentations will focus on European life stories of groups, individuals, and family members from the 18th and 20th centuries, while taking into account the methodological and ethical debates around the writing of biography as a genre. Everyone is welcome, but those who want to participate in the Ph.D. workshop, with or without a paper, please contact Agnes S. Arnórsdóttir ( or Rósa Magnúsdóttir (

Invited speakers and commentators are:

Erla Hulda Halldórsdóttir, Department of History, University of Iceland. “’As it happened not as it turned out’”. Reflections on letters, biography and life-writing.

Svante Norrhem, Department of History, Lund University. Making gender matter. On writing gender history through biographies.


Place for the seminar,

building 1325, room 220, 10-14


Place for the Ph.d workshop,

building 1327, room 024, 14-16

Historie og Klassiske Studier