110

Louis-François Pinagot He was an illiterate shoemaker in western France in the 19th century. French historian Alain Corbin picked Pinagot at random on a town registry, and wrote his biography as a way to describe the social environment of 19th century France, collecting as much data as possible about Pinagot, his family, his village, etc. The result was ...


30

It's likely not a book per se, but a brochure, of which he published several during the war. The most likely candidate would be the pamphlet "Die Selbsttäuschung unserer Feinde", Berlin, 1916. (On the self delusions of our enemies) Sadly, the Emanuel Lasker Gesellschaft should have this, but their site is currently "under construction". Secondary mentions ...


30

I think you may look into biographies of war heroes. War is an opportunity for a person to do something notable to attract biographers’ attention and still stay just one of the many. For example, The story of a real man, a novel by Boris Polevoy, is a biography of Alexey Maresyev (Meresyev in the book), a Soviet pilot who was shot down behind the frontline, ...


28

The Merchant of Prato by Iris Origo (1957) is a biography of Francesco Datini a 14th-century merchant banker. The only distinguishing factor of Datini is that by chance a huge stash of his written accounts and letters had been preserved and discovered in 1870.


23

Not a book, but there is a long-running documentary film series in the UK following the lives of ordinary people with a film every seven years from the first when they were seven years old. The latest, '63 Up', has just shown. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_(film_series)


12

One of my favorite historical accounts is The Cheese and the Worms by Carlo Ginzburg (an Italian historian). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cheese_and_the_Worms It's an account of the life and trial of a sixteenth century miller brought before the inquisition twice, tried, and eventually executed. Quite excellent. "The study examines the unique ...


10

The novelist Vikram Seth wrote Two Lives: A Memoir, which is a biography of his uncle and aunt. His uncle was a dentist, originally from India, who studied dentistry in Germany. His wife was Jewish, from Berlin. They left Germany and settled in England shortly before World War II. The part of the book that I remember best describes the effect of World War ...


8

To ameliorate some of the western bias among these answers, there's an entire genre of Lei Feng biographies based on his purported diary and others' remembrances of him that have been read by far more people and been far more important to more people than any of the others mentioned here. A billion plus Chinese kids have been raised reading about him as a ...


8

You could try A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman. Strictly speaking, it's not a biography, as much as a tour of the 14th century in France, with sections on all the important events of the day: the Black Death, the Hundred Years' War, peasant revolts, the papal schism, and such. But most of the narrative is structured around ...


8

I am currently reading Nehru's 'The Discovery of India' which is about Indian history as well as his experiences of Indian freedom struggle. I think you can download it legally from here. Although he has substantially praised Buddhism in the book, that is equally true about Hinduism as well. Actually, what he seems to be interested in is the sociological ...


8

Probably not. It's impossible to prove a negative like this, so this answer is necessarily inferential. Let's start by looking at Franklin's letter: Benjamin Franklin to John Bartram London, Jan. 11, 1770. My ever dear Friend: I received your kind letter of Nov. 29, with the parcel of seeds, for which I am greatly obliged to you. I cannot ...


7

Diogenes Laërtius mentions several of Pythagoras' travels and he mentions that the philosopher visited the Chaldeans and the Magi: ἐγένετ' οὖν ἐν Αἰγύπτῳ, ὁπηνίκα καὶ Πολυκράτης αὐτὸν Ἀμάσιδι συνέστησε δι' ἐπιστολῆς· καὶ ἐξέμαθε τὴν φωνὴν αὐτῶν, καθά φησιν Ἀντιφῶν ἐν τῷ Περὶ τῶν ἐν ἀρετῇ πρωτευσάντων, καὶ παρὰ Χαλδαίοις ἐγένετο καὶ Μάγοις. εἶτ' ἐν Κρήτῃ ...


5

Your criteria for exclusion seem quite flexible, so I am not sure if any of the following really count: There are several works by holocaust and WWII survivors who are more notable for their post-war lives, e.g. Imre Kertesz, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, Inge Deutschkron. There are also works about victims of the war, e.g. about Tanya Savicheva. 1587 Year of no ...


4

Christian Weston Chandler is an absolute nobody, yet has a complete wiki (https://sonichu.com/) that documents his whole life, pretty much every email or Facebook post he wrote, every piece of art, video and music he produced. There's also an extensive web of relationships with people he encountered, be they real or not. Mr Chandler is pretty much the most ...


4

No. Plutarch would not be considered a historian from the modern standard of academic or professional history. Plutarch lacked the equivalent of a modern University's research degree in history. Plutarch did not work in a context of post 19th century historiography. In particular Plutarch's writing of "history" for moral instruction is greatly frowned ...


3

We can't really say for sure what his daily reading habits are like (and he almost surely maintained different schedules over the course of his life - certainly blindness must have had a significant impact). In this case, however, I suspect your professor was referring to Milton's reading of the bible, which he could do in the original Hebrew and Greek. ...


3

Let us consider the etymology of the word: essence late 14c., essencia (respelled late 15c. on French model), from Latin essentia "being, essence," abstract noun formed (to translate Greek ousia "being, essence") from essent-, present participle stem of esse "to be," from PIE root *es- "to be." Originally "substance of the Trinity;" the general ...


3

I think this question presumes far to much determinism on the part of the "Great Purge" process. An anonymous report from a subordinate, or from someone who coveted something which belonged to the victim (wife, daughter, apartment) was enough (unless there was a high-level protector willing to risk everything to save the victim).


3

Apart from advocating scientific management, Gastev was a proletariat smithy(kuznitsa) poet. The Smithy (Kuznitsa) was founded in late 1919 by a group of proletarian poets who believed that the practical work of the Proletkult was holding back the development of their creative possibilities. In essence, the Smithy poets merely wanted to work and ...


3

There's a good chance that they can't be identified because they don't exist. Suetonius paints a nice picture of Titus, who changed from a suspicious killer when he was acting as his father's enforcer to the best Emperor ever the second he took office. And maybe that's all so..he only lived a few years after that and was occupied with several disasters. So ...


2

Historically, this is not a "curious fact" but rather a general rule. I mean the time when "national leaders" in Europe were monarchs. It is very common for a monarch to be a foreigner. Some examples: William I and William III of England, and their descendants, Romanov's dynasty in Russia after Peter I was mostly German. And most other European monarchs.


2

I don't know about the other two, but that number of escaped slaves is quite creditable. There's no official census of course, for obvious reasons. It seems like even lowball estimates are in the thousands.


2

Not sure if you consider it biography exactly, but Steven Ozment's Magdalena and Balthasar is a lovely study of a 1500s mercantile couple from the Holy Roman Empire. It is principally translation and commentary on their correspondence, studying their relationship and milieu through the medium of those letters, though, rather than a true birth-to-childhood-to-...


1

Biographies don't necessarily have to be written. Portraits and sculpture are often just as eloquent forms of testimony. And given your question, I'd point out the custom of memorialising the dead of a war through the tomb of the unknown soldier which arose from the end of the first world war as an eloquent form of biography.


1

Europa Europa is a movie but could fit the bill of the story of a random person: It is based on the 1989 autobiography of Solomon Perel, a German Jewish boy who escaped the Holocaust by masquerading as a "Nazi" German. While the story is understandably quite extraordinary, Solomon Perel was a standard boy who left no marks in History. The move gives ...


1

Not exactly a book, or a serious biography, but the song "The Ballad of Rufus Amos Adams" might qualify.


1

The Minaguchi Inn is a book detailing the establishment in question, from its origins as the house of a samurai, to its transformation into an inn, and the family who lived there.


1

A foreigner as a ruler is (or perhaps was) quite common in Europe. Many European emerging nations looked for (usually) German princes when they gained their independence, if they wanted to become a kingdom and didn't have a royal family. The supplying royal families found this an excellent way to employ their sons not in line for the throne. Why German ...


1

Steven Chu comes to mind. Other candidates might include Henry Kissenger - assuming that political science is a science Douglass North Thomas Schelling Albert Schweitzer assuming that the UN is government Friedrich von Hayek Paul Krugman Elsie Widdowson Hu Jintao Antoine Lavosier Rush D. Holt Jerry McNerney Vern Ehlers Bill Foster Mario Monti Lucas ...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible