Different Lives

Global Perspectives on Biography in Public Cultures and Societies


Internationally acclaimed biographies are almost always written by British or American biographers. But what is the state of the art of biography in other parts of the world? Introduced by Richard Holmes, the volume Different Lives offers a global perspective: seventeen scholars vividly describe the biographical tradition in their countries of interest. They show how biography functions as a public genre, featuring specific societal issues and opinion-making. Indeed, the volume aims to answer the question: how can biography contribute to a better understanding of differences between societies and cultures? Special attention is given to the US, China and the Netherlands. Other contributions are on Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Iceland, Iran, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, and South Africa.

"This book represents a much needed breakdown of the history and current status of Biography Studies throughout the world. Any educator teaching a course in higher education that includes Biography Studies should definitely consider this as a major text for inclusion."
Billy Tooma, film maker and Assistant Professor, Wessex County College

"The rise of biography is the literary event of our time; Hamilton and Renders are its pioneer scholars, and their compelling primer is a must read."
Joanny Moulin, Institut Universitaire de France, on Nigel Hamilton and Hans Renders, in: The ABC of Modern Biography (2018)

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Hans Renders is Professor in History and Theory of Biography at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands. He has written two biographies and has published on biographical theory in various international journals. He is the series editor of Biography Studies at Brill.

David Veltman works at the Biography Institute (University of Groningen) on a PhD thesis about the artist Felix de Boeck. David has an MA in modern Dutch literature. He has published before in Biography and Australian Journal of Biography and History.
"This collection should be on the shelf of everyone interested in Biographies Studies. [....]. These essays are not, to be sure, dry and stuffy. There is real passion within each and every one of them, which is indicative of the drive their authors have in wanting to create something that is both an educational tool and a compelling read. Different Lives is a welcomed, and much needed, addition to Biography Studies". Billy Tooma.

"The essays in Different Lives are salient and compelling exactly because of constraints and the variety of forms in which they are expressed socially, culturally, and eventually in the story of a life."
- Marlene Kadar in Netherlandic Studies, 41.1 (2021): 91-96.
List of Figures
Notes on Contributors
Introduction Richard Holmes
Different Lives in a Global World Hans Renders
Truth, Lies and Fake Truth: the Future of Biography Nigel Hamilton
Historical Biography in Canada: Historians, Publishers, and the Public Daniel R. Meister
Biography as Discourse: South African Biography in the Post-Apartheid Era Lindie Koorts
‘La pauvre Belgique’: How a Debate over the Repression after the Second World War Informed a Biographical Tradition in Belgium David Veltman
Biography in Spain: a Historical and Historiographic Perspective María Jesús González
The Chinese Sense of Self and Biographical Narrative: an Overview Kerry Brown
Double Dutch: the Art of Presidential Biography Carl Rollyson
Biography in Australia: Different Yet the Same? All Connected Flatland? Melanie Nolan
Writing Lives in Contemporary Italy Yannick Gouchan
Hidden and Forbidden Issues in Works of Iranian Biography Sahar Vahdati Hosseinian
From Reticence to Revelation: Biography in New Zealand Doug Munro
The Icelandic Biography and Egodocuments in Historical Writing Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon
Between ‘Creators and Bearers of the Czech National Myth’ and an ‘Academic Suicide’: Czech Biography in the Twenty-First Century Jana Wohlmuth Markupová
Biographies and Their Agendas: the Danish Biographical Tradition in a Historical Perspective Joanna Cymbrykiewicz
The Biography’s Pretension to Truth Is Relative. Biography in the Netherlands Elsbeth Etty
Inception, Inheritance and Innovation: Sima Qian, Liang Qichao and the Modernization of Chinese Biography Liu Jialin
Teachers of Biography Studies, University Libraries, (Graduate) students and anyone else working in the humanities who may have questions regarding the biographical tradition in a specific culture or society.
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