(835 words)

The term biography (from the Greek bíos, “life,” and gráphein, “to write”) in the sense of a description of a life is first attested in English in 1683, and is found in the German-speaking world from the 18th century. Literary biographies are among the oldest written expressions in human history, and their origins lie in the practices of memorialization of the dead and ruler panegyric that are widespread in all cultures. The spectrum of biographical forms ranges from funerary inscriptions, obituaries,…

Cite this page
Viehöver, Vera, “Biography”, in: Encyclopedia of Early Modern History Online, Executive editor of the English edition: Graeme Dunphy. Consulted online on 25 February 2018 <>
First published online: 2015
First print edition: 20160907

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