The duty of a biographer is to provide perspectives on a life that was in most instances had salt – was valuable. In this context the biographer will seek to reveal those key issues which in the ultimate end will assist in human development in general and help us to know those individuals amongst us who rose to great heights in their service to humanity.
To this regard the biographer should have clear perspectives about the life being investigated. The biographer must get around the nooks and crannies of the life he or she is writing about. The biographer must have sources that he or she must thoroughly and impartially examine to determine their genuineness and integrity, and the credibility and the capacity of the people the biographer is interviewing.
In many instances the sources might be many and it might be impossible to assimilate and digest them all. Take, perhaps the life of Princess Diana – if you will set yourself to write about her you will e confronted with scores of sources and people who has something to say. In this context as the biographer you should be guided by reliability and readability – utmost condensation of sources should be studied by a judicious selection of salient points in the history of a life being studied. The reader of a biography it is true should not get miniature pictures of history, but full comprehensive portraits. Yet much space may be gained by omitting the processes and unessential details and condense facts into a concise coherent system.
It was upon these guidelines that we set out to do a biography of Eugen Weber, the most reverent former chair of History Department at the University of California. Eugen Weber was familiar, charming presence to Americans who saw his acclaimed 52-part lecture series, “The Western Tradition,” produced by the Annenberg Foundation for PBS in 1989.
We were confronted with a lot of sources. There were past students of Eugen Weber to talk to in structured interviews, there were his peers and there was this vast reservoir – the internet full of reviews of the books Eugen Weber published. One thing was clear in our minds that we were not going to buckle down under peer pressure and resemble those biographers who write thick books about their subjects as if it is a testimony of the mighty things the subject did. We thought biographies can be effective and be read better if they are condense and made readable. There is no use writing thick books unless they are going to be read in their entirety not only parts. I am a big consumer of biographies but in most of them – especially the thick once I find myself satisfied with reading only a quarter of the whole book.
So as we do our research, our focus was to distill the information – focusing on those key aspects that we felt they will assist people to have a clear picture of Eugen Weber as the Greatest Historian of Our Times. We wanted to bring out those facts about his life that demonstrate that he belong to those individuals in the history of the human race who stood up to represent great principles.