Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Portraiture, Biography and Public Histories

Jordanova, Ludmilla

Portraiture, Biography and Public Histories Thumbnail


Ludmilla Jordanova


Portraits and biographies play a central role in engaging non-specialists with the past, and hence invite careful scrutiny. Major enterprises, such as the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Dictionary of National Biography, in both its original and Oxford versions, provide rich examples for reflecting on public history and on the relationships between types of writing about past times. These issues relate to literature as well as to history, given the prominence of biographies of literary figures, and the role of literary scholars as authors of biographies. Using materials concerning the artist John Collier (1850–1934), the publisher George Smith (1824–1901) and the surgeon James Paget (1814–1899), this article examines the relationships between portraits and biographies and the types of insight they afford. Colin Matthew's innovation of including portraits in the Oxford Dictionary, together with his own scholarship on William Gladstone (1809–1898), including his portraits, provide the basis for suggestions about the role of work when representing lives, including those of historians. Public history can only benefit from research practices being discussed in an accessible manner, as attempted here.


Jordanova, L. (2022). Portraiture, Biography and Public Histories. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 32, 159-175.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 13, 2022
Online Publication Date May 19, 2022
Publication Date 2022-12
Deposit Date Sep 8, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 15, 2023
Journal Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
Print ISSN 0080-4401
Electronic ISSN 1474-0648
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 32
Pages 159-175


Published Journal Article (429 Kb)

Publisher Licence URL

Copyright Statement
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations