National biography

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A national biography is a biographical reference work in which the nationality and sphere of activity is decisive for the selection of the persons represented . The main German national biographies are the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) , published from 1873 to 1912, and its successor, the Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB) , which has been published since 1953 . A list of well-known national biographies can be found in the List of National, Regional and Local Biographies .

The general approach is characteristic of a national biography. The framework set in the foreword of the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie is described as follows:

"However, all more important personalities should be included in the biography, in whose deeds and works the development of Germany in history, science, art, trade and industry, in short in every branch of political and cultural life is represented."

The intention is therefore to portray a national culture in the mirror of its important representatives without being restricted to certain areas of activity and with a time frame that largely encompasses the history of the nation in question. Accordingly, biographical reference works of this type are not national biographies that only depict people from a certain state, but are limited to certain groups such as scientists ( scholarly lexicon , scholarly calendar ) , politicians and officials ( state handbook , state calendar ) or periods of time ( epoch biography ).

Biographical reference works that are limited to people who were born in, or lived and worked in, countries that are dependent on the respective state are referred to as extranational biographies . These can be states with a (former) colonial empire , for example, the biography belge d'outre-mer / Belgische overzeese biography (Brussels 1967-2015) lists people from overseas territories in Belgium, but it can also contain people from culturally or otherwise be dependent or related areas. Examples are the writer's lexicon of the Transylvanian Germans (New approach Böhlau since 1983, now 10 volumes) or How far is Vienna. Latin America as an exile for Austrian writers and artists (Vienna 1995).

If the geographical framework is not limited to a state but to a region or a single place, then one speaks of regional biography (example: Baden biographies ) or local biography (example: Braunschweigisches Biographisches Lexikon ).

A general biography that is not a national biography but lists people of different nationalities is called an international biography . In general, people from the same culture are represented in such a biography in greater numbers and in greater detail. An example is The Cambridge biographical encyclopedia (2nd ed. Cambridge 1998).


  • Klaus Schreiber: Biographische Informationsmittel: Typologie mit Examples: Reviews of 836 general and technical collective biographies from the beginning of the nineties to the end of 1998. Vol. 1: Typologie. International biographies. Africa. America. Asia. Australia. International biographies. Africa. America. Asia. Australia. Europe (Northern and Western Europe). Germany (general, epoch, group, thematic, institutional biographies; specialist and professional biographies; special directories). German Library Institute, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-87068-549-2 , p. 25 ff.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rochus von Liliencron, Franz Xaver von Wegele in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Published by the Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Volume 1 (1875), preface. S. V-VI .