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April 1965

Psychological Studies of Famous Americans: The Civil War Era.

Arch Intern Med. 1965;115(4):513-515. doi:10.1001/archinte.1965.03860160139040

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If biography is the history of an individual, history is the biography of nations or other groups. History (or biography) is a story of conflict or concord—usually both. The individuals concerned wrestle with other individuals-either with their contemporaries or their predecessors. They may also wrestle with that specter of their predecessors called tradition, and here the battle may be waged within the minds of men.

But both history and biography, potentially fertile subjects, can become preoccupied by tedious overconcern with dates or emasculated by the mere cataloging of events—processes which debilitate the intrinsic richness of the subject.

What makes a good history or biography? Surely a set of anecdotes does not fill the bill, although such an account would make good fiction. In our opinion history or biography should be considered to be a study of the past with a view towards illuminating the present. Above all, it should be

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