"'Prosopography' is the investigation of the common background characteristics of a group of actors in history by means of a collective study of their lives. The method employed is to establish a universe to be studied, and then to ask a set of uniform questions – about birth and death, marriage and family, social origins and inherited economic position, place of residence, education, amount and source of personal wealth, occupation, religion, experience of office and so on. The various types of information about the individuals in the universe are then juxtaposed and combined, and are examined for significant variables. They are tested both for internal correlations and for correlations with other forms of behaviour or action."

From Lawrence Stone, 'Prosopography', in F. Gilbert and S. Graubard eds., Historical Studies Today (New York, 1972); rpt. of Lawrence Stone, "Prosopography," Daedalus 100.1 (1971): 46-71


More on comparative perspectives: Prosopographical projects in the pre-modern world: CHS and its counterparts

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