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As prosopography (from Greek  πρόσωπον prosopon "face" γράφειν Graphein "write") is known in the science of history the systematic study of a particular group of people.


Jürgen Petersohn defined prosopography as the “collection and listing of all persons in a circle of life marked out according to space and time”. With regard to the extensive tradition in the late Middle Ages compared to earlier epochs, prosopographical research has to sift through and evaluate in advance. For Petersohn, this results in an "interaction between the method and the factual topic in each individual examination". Neithard Bulst defined it as “exploring the individual with regard to a whole to which he can be assigned”. Géza Alföldy defined the prosopographical method as a socio-historical method "which starts out for the study of a certain social class from the information that we have received about some of its members". As a basic requirement he called "the creation of a data framework". This should summarize all source-related information such as name, origin, official career or political position.

Choice and meaning

The selection of people is usually based on a combination of geographical, temporal and socio-political criteria. The results of the research, for example with regard to origin, careers or family connections are used in addition to individual studies such as e. B. which Ronald Symes or Lewis Namiers often published in alphabetical or systematic indexes with sources . In addition to social history , such registers are also of great importance for personal and family history . In a broader sense, every local family book is also a prosopography.

The method of collective biography , which is also more frequently used for modern and modern history , is to be distinguished from the creation of lists of people, known as prosopography in the narrower sense, especially in ancient and medieval history : It deals more comparatively, for example with regard to origin , Careers or family connections, with the people under investigation and their social environment. There is a particular risk of confusion due to the English-language use of the term prosopography , which has been referring to the collective biography since Lawrence Stone.


Project logo of the Repertorium Academicum Germanicum

Many personal lists in Wikipedia are also prosopographies.


  • Neithard Bulst , Jean-Philippe Genet: Medieval Lives and the Historian: Studies in Medieval Prosopography. (Proceedings of the First International Interdisciplinary Conference on Medieval Prosopography, University of Bielefeld, 3-5 December 1982) . Medieval Inst. Publ., Kalamazoo, Mich. 1986, ISBN 0-918720-69-9 .
  • Averil Cameron (Ed.): Fifty Years of Prosopography. The Later Roman Empire, Byzantium and Beyond . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2003, ISBN 0-19-726292-9 (Proceedings of The British Academy 118).
  • Peter Csendes : City and Prosopography. For research into sources of people and social groups in the city of the late Middle Ages and the early modern period . Austrian Working Group for Urban History Research , Linz 2002, ISBN 3-900387-26-5 (Research on the history of cities and markets in Austria, 6).
  • Werner Eck (Hrsg.): Prosopography and social history. Studies on the methodology and knowledge of the prosopography of the imperial era. Colloquium Cologne 24.-26. November 1991 . Böhlau, Cologne 1993, ISBN 3-412-04393-1 .
  • Mark Häberlein, Wolfgang Reinhard: Augsburg elites of the 16th century. Prosopography of economic and political leadership groups 1500–1620 . Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-05-002861-0 .
  • KSB Keats-Rohan (Ed.): Prosopography, Approaches and Applications. A Handbook (= Prosopographica and Genealogica. Volume 13). University of Oxford, Oxford 2007, ISBN 978-1-900934-12-1 .

Web links


  1. ^ Jürgen Petersohn: Person research in the late Middle Ages. On research history and method. In: Journal for historical research 2, 1975, pp. 1–5, here: p. 1.
  2. ^ Jürgen Petersohn: Person research in the late Middle Ages. On research history and method. In: Journal for historical research 2, 1975, pp. 1–5, here: p. 4 f.
  3. Neithard Bulst: On the subject and method of prosopography. In: Medieval Lives and the Historian. Studies in Medieval Prosopography. Kalamazoo / Michigan 1986, pp. 1-16, here: p. 4.
  4. Géza Alföldy: The meaning of ancient history. In: Ferdinand Seibt, Albrecht Timm (Hrsg.): Problems of historical science. Düsseldorf 1973, pp. 28–54, here: p. 37.
  5. ^ Ronald Syme: The Roman Revolution. Oxford 1939. Der .: The Augustan aristocracy. 1986. Lewis Namier: The Structure of Politics at the Accession of George III. 1929. See Hartmut Galsterer : A Man, a Book, and a Method: Sir Ronald Syme’s novel Revolution After Fifty Years. In: Kurt Raaflaub , Mark Toher (Ed.): Between Republic and Empire. Interpretations of Augustus and His Principate. Berkeley 1990, p. 4.
  6. Lawrence Stone: Prosopography . Dædalus 100 (1971), pp. 46-79.
  7. ^ Prosopography Chrétienne du Bas-Empire