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Form of nonfictional literature whose subject is the life of an individual. The earliest biographical writings probably were funeral speeches and inscriptions. The origins of modern biography lie with Plutarch's moralizing lives of prominent Greeks and Romans and Suetonius's gossipy lives of the Caesars. Few biographies of common individuals were written until the 16th century. The major developments of English biography came in the 18th century, with such works as James Boswell's Life of Johnson. In modern times impatience with Victorian reticence and the development of psychoanalysis have sometimes led to a more penetrating and comprehensive understanding of biographical subjects. See alsoautobiography.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on biography, visit Britannica.com.