from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A study, often using statistics, that identifies and draws relationships between various characters or people within a specific historical, social, or literary context: "an authentic tour de force of historical writing: part intellectual history, part cultural history, part prosopography” ( Josiah Bunting III).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a study of the individuals in a group of people within a specific context and their relationships

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. In rhetoric, the description of any one's personal appearance.


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

Greek prosōpon, character (pros-, pros- + ōps, ōp-, face; see okw- in Indo-European roots) + -graphy.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the Latin prosōpographia ("description of a person’s appearance”, “description of an individual’s life"), from the Ancient Greek πρόσωπον (prosōpon, "face”, “person") + -γρᾰφῐ́ᾱ (-graphiā, "-writing”, “-drawing"). See also prosopon.


  • In the mid-twentieth century, another major contribution was a large project in what the Greeks called prosopography, or collective biography.

    Champlain's Dream

  • Chapter One employs a prosopography of over one thousand trade unionists and Working Men's Party operatives based on an extensive analysis of census, tax list, probate, insolvency, and other documents.

    Advocating The Man: Masculinity, Organized Labor, and the Household in New York, 1800-1840

  • John Frazee within the home by utilizing a prosopography of New York's organized men between 1800 and 1840.

    Advocating The Man: Masculinity, Organized Labor, and the Household in New York, 1800-1840

  • The Randolphs of Turkey Island: A prosopography of the first three generations, 1650-1806 Ph.D. diss., College of William and Mary, 1977.

    American Connections

  • It can stand with such a tower of prosopography as Sir Ronald Syme's The Roman Revolution 1939, repr. variously.

    The Rest

  • V. -- I pardon this epitrope, but pray use less metaphor and more litotes in the prosopography you dedicate to my modest entity --

    Prairie Farmer, Vol. 56: No. 3, January 19, 1884. A Weekly Journal for the Farm, Orchard and Fireside

  • Despite all differences of approach, he himself wrote only two years ago, "Ronald Syme wrote superbly and authoritatively when he used prosopography to clarify a revolutionary movement ” the upsurge of new social strata under Augustus" (English Historical Review, 1973, p. 115; compare his review of The Roman Revolution reprinted in Secondo Contributo alla Storia degli Studi Classici, 1960, 207 f. and his remarks in Studi Romani 14, 1966, 1-3).

    Bearing Gifts

  • But in my review of Syme's book in Journal of Roman Studies 1940, 73, I also expressed my fundamental objection to prosopography as a method of interpreting history: "Prosopographical research has the great virtue of reaching individuals or small groups, but does not explain their material or spiritual needs: it simply presupposes them.

    Bearing Gifts

  • In the wrong hands, the kind of history that concentrates upon economic problems can be quite as bad as ” and even more boring than ” bad prosopography.

    Bearing Gifts


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • The description of a person's appearance

    January 8, 2018

  • A single life limned is biography.

    A people detailed is demography.

    If a history lacks

    Both gossip and facts

    It's probably prosopography.

    May 5, 2015

  • Group biography or study of a group of people.

    October 10, 2010

  • JM wants to encourage prosopography as a way of keeping up appearances.

    April 2, 2010