How detailed should biographies be on Historically Significant Individuals?

+14 votes

As part of the working on the profiles of the Presidents a discussion is arising as to how detailed the Biography section of the profile should be.  There seem to be two basic schools of thought: First - people are likely more interested in whether they are related to a Historically Significant Person rather than reading a bio about that person especially when there are usually numerous other sources for good bios on the person. The second school is more along the lines of doing both the genealogical research and the Biography in as much detail as possible - within reason.

I am not really sure where I stand on this as I can see both arguments as being valid. To me the issue is more about scope regardless of which biography school you subscribe to.

Any thoughts? What is the concensus of the other project groups? I will also post this question on the project talk page.

in Policy and Style by Living Chelton G2G6 (8.2k points)
edited by Keith Hathaway

1 Answer

+11 votes
Best answer
Good question.

My first thought: Why does it have to be an argument? If someone wants to write deep, well-researched, original biographies for US Presidents, why not encourage them? Or if someone wants to dig into serious genealogical lineages, why not encourage that too?

Of course, that evades the question. It's a legitimate thing to discuss when a project like the US Presidents group is discussing what they should focus their limited efforts on. And it's also good to have standards and recommendations, especially concerning the style of biographies.

Regarding the biographies, I never see a reason to duplicate what's written elsewhere. If it's public domain it's legal to duplicate it, but why? Why not just link to the other website? Judicious excerpts might make sense, so that we can at least include a quick biographical overview, but wholesale duplication doesn't make sense to me.
by Chris Whitten G2G Astronaut (1.3m points)
selected by Deborah Mayes
Perhaps it would be best to provide a basic one-paragraph description as to why the person is historically significant, with links for more information. You could reserve any biographical additions to genealogical points such as time-lines and sourcing, and genealogical anecdotes (like pointing out relationships such as Theodore Roosevelt's relationship to FDR,  the fact that Eleanor and FDR are cousins, etc.)  

I'm not a participant in this particular project, but that's my take on it.  We can't be all things to all people, perhaps we should focus on the genealogical aspects.

- Mike
I like that idea Michael of using a paragraph or two to indicate why they are historically significant - even if it is just because they are managed by one of the project groups. And then use the biography to flesh out genealogically significant points along a timeline, lifeline or in the sources. that is definately something to think about.
Chris told me to get involved in the hsa ... my comment on this subject is that biographies need to be placed in context in time and in location to help others to find connections so those things should be an important part of the biography. For example say King whosit went on progression through his country and met a lady at her castle and ended up loving the ladys charms so much he stayed Four months with her and soso was born ... that would be an importantpart of a bio or timeline, imo...
I'm a bit late to this discussion, but I agree that links snd a quick paragraph would be a good goal to reach, but that detailed biographies that are clear, organized, and acuurate should never be discouraged. I do not see a problem in repeating information that another has put in the public domain. Why make people have to go to more thsn one place for information if someone wants to try and prevent that?
Always difficult to decide what to leave out. For Nelson I wouldn't include details about his battles, nor worry about the intricacies of Einstein's work or discuss whether Shakespere actually wrote Shakespeare. But I would try to include details like when the parents died, who the friends were and mention the major achievements and catastrophies. I'd like to get to know the person without going anywhere else.

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