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date: 17 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews the historical development of the genre of biography in relation to the social sciences, and discusses the debates about its utility in the study of leadership. Taking key examples, it explores the contrast between the ‘common-sense, humane tradition’ said to be the bedrock of biography, and more theoretically informed approaches (especially leadership typologies, psychobiographies, and the ‘interpretive turn’) in the ways that questions of leadership are addressed. Developments in biographical methodology are a core concern. Biography, it is argued, need not be driven by an ‘individual journey’ but can be oriented to questions germane to political enquiry, especially questions of leader efficacy, achievement, or dysfunction.

Keywords: political biography, biography and social science, biographical methodology, genre, leadership, interpretation, psychological theory

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