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Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts (1st edn)

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan
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date: 30 May 2023

p. 223Prosopographylocked

p. 223Prosopographylocked

  • Jacob A. Hasselbalch
  •  and Leonard Seabrooke


This chapter discusses prosopography, which is defined as the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their lives. The etymology of the word suggests that prosopography is about describing or recording a person’s appearance or life, but prosopography differs from biography in that it analyses structured biographical data of groups of individuals that have something in common. Prosopography emerged primarily as a method for historical research. Outside of historical research, it is more commonly known as ‘group biography’ or ‘career-path analysis’. Prosopography has also been a key element of ‘field-based’ research on social groups and the sociology of professions, and is more of an approach than a method sui generis: it implies the systematic organization of data in such a way that connections and patterns that influence historical processes are revealed. The chapter then details the five stages of prosopography.

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