Selected Fields 2012



Biography is an important sub-discipline of history.  Every progressive society makes room for achievement and excellence. Since ancient times, this has been done by immortalizing the names of heroes, role models and influential people whose examples are to be copied by younger generations. Plutarch (A.D.C 46-120) reputed as the father of biography, summarized the need for biography in a few words. “The first impulse to write biography” he said, “arose from the moral desire to hold up for public example the lives and character of illustrious persons in order to extol the virtues to be emulated and the vices to be eschewed.”

British diplomat and author Harold Nicolson (1886-1968) placed biography within the realm of literature. He saw biography simply as the “the lives of individual men as a branch of literature.” This trend was followed by French writer Andre Maurois (1885- 1967) who has been rated as one of the best modern biographers. Maurois defined biography as “an art combining pure history, pure fiction and pure science.”This form of biography seeks to “transform through literary style the truthful record of fact into the truthful effect of a life being lived.” Barbara Kruger put it this way: “I think that every so-called history book and film biography should be prefaced by the statement that what follows is the author's rendition of events and circumstances”. Among the many different types of biographies, the critical biography stands out distinct. This form of biography offers a genuine presentation of a life. Its major strength is the meticulousness involved in its research. Products of critical biographies are carefully researched sources. It is this scientific approach involved in the writing of critical biography that sets it apart from others. Collier’s Encyclopedia insists that such works are “scrupulously set forth in notes, appendices, bibliographies, inferences and conjecture.” Furthermore, “no fictional devices or manipulations of material are permitted and there is chronological presentation.” 

Aware of a significant number of first class biographies of major historical figures published in the past few years, the Board of the Dan David Prize has decided on History/Biography as the selected field within the Past Time Dimension for the 2012 Dan David Prize. The Dan David Prize will be awarded to a biographer whose work has cast new light on the life of a historical figure and his times.