A Tutorial



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Second Stage

The second stage is a three-part process.

In the first, a numbered list of all the name forms occurring in the sources is established in an Index of Names.

The second part consists in identifying individuals among the mass of name records, creating an Index of Persons from the Index of Names.

Thirdly, a biographical catalogue or lexicon for the whole group is created by adding biographical data derived from the primary sources to the file of each individual according to a pre-determined 'questionnaire', i.e. a standardized list of categories of information which will subsequently facilitate analysis of the whole corpus, e.g. date/place of birth/death/burial, name of parents/spouses/children, date of appointments, positions attained, wealth, religion, etc. It will not be possible to provide the information in all cases, nor does the process exclude adding any information additional to the questionnaire to the person file. The exact nature of the questionnaire will be determined by the source material available (see Manual, p. 53-6).

The lexicon will ideally offer a natural language summary biography of each person, based on the results of the questionnaire. The data contained in the questionnaire may also be coded in the linked tables of a relational database, which will make them available for multivariate statistical analysis. Some sources, especially ancient or medieval ones, will be too lacunary for a statistical approach.

These two stages are painstakingly derived from, and linked to, primary sources. The result is a "constructed source", or "metasource". The same word - prosopography - is used to describe the end-product of the method (the "metasource") and the method itself. The completed prosopography provides an essential reference work for the study of its period, not least by establishing firm chronological outlines and undertaking a thorough review of primary sources.

Prosopography can be undertaken with either the creation of a biographical lexicon or a specific research project as the envisaged aim. In either case stage two, the creation of the index of names and the index of persons, is indispensable. This stage is the subject of this tutorial.

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©University of Oxford

The compilers were Dr Katharine S. B. Keats-Rohan with the assistance of Dr Olga Borymchuk and Jacquelyn Fernholz.