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New Biographies in World History


Introduction: Moving Beyond the "Usual Suspects"

Laura J. Mitchell and Andrea Felber Seligman


     Professional historians have a long, complicated relationship with biography, whether in classrooms, libraries, archives, or the public sphere. Conventional biographies—the trajectories, motivations, and major accomplishments of public figures—feature regularly in lists of bestsellers, popular favorites, major prize winners, and critically acclaimed titles. Ron Chernow's 2004 book, Alexander Hamilton, was catapulted into the limelight after being adapted into a hit Broadway musical, securing an enviable position on the New York Times best-seller list for more than sixty weeks by the end of 2016.1 Academic historians have, however, often kept such books at arm's length: few such best-sellers are written by scholars with academic jobs; graduate students imbibe conventional wisdom that biographies make for bad dissertation topics, and seasoned teachers say that biographies are hard to teach with because they tend to be too long and too limiting to anchor the broad-ranging, thematic questions we typically seek to address in class. So historians skirt around books that sell, books we know people read, perpetuating a distance between "biography" and "history" that frames instruction in both high school and college classrooms.

     This irony is compounded by the fact that many teachers strive to humanize history for their students by introducing individuals, families, communities, lived experience, and emotion to enliven narratives, contextualize motivation, and explain change and its consequences. Such attention to the human scale of history is especially important given today's current political climate, which intensifies the need to de-construct generalizations, note exceptions, and interrogate the basis of "othering."2 This Forum suggests that biographies offer unique opportunities to combine narrative history with explicit attention to the thinking skills that are central to our discipline.3 Recent scholarship has transformed the genre, democratizing and expanding a form once reserved only for the study of well-known political and cultural leaders. With new and increasingly diverse biographies available, there are exciting possibilities for humanizing high school and college classes while further developing students' analytical skills.

     In this introduction, we briefly outline changing practices of biographical scholarship since the 1990s and connect that literature to the study of world history. Given the increasing wealth, diversity, and sheer number of new biographies, a single Forum in this journal cannot address the entirety body of work. The four papers here do, however, establish parameters to guide further reading in the topic and to facilitate the incorporation of biographies—of both well-known and ordinary people—into world history classes. What's more, these papers take readers into regions and topics that connect directly to themes and processes central to world history but that tend not to receive as much coverage in survey courses. By looking beyond the usual Atlantic maritime empires or modernity centered in the global North, this Forum enriches our view of the world through attention to individual lives in unfamiliar or unexpected places.

Established Tools, New Biographies, and Global Contexts

     The flourishing of new biographies has been shaped, not surprisingly, by general trends in historical research. Over three decades of microhistories—alongside parallel efforts to uncover subaltern, unnamed, or forgotten peoples' lives through oral history, social history, archaeology, and historical linguistics—have deepened the pool of "acceptable" biographical subjects and significantly expanded the treatment of individual lives in their broader historical contexts.4 By the end of the 1990s, interventions from feminist scholars, race and ethnic studies, subaltern studies, and area studies productively diversified the genre so that biography is no longer only the purview of mostly male, mostly white, political leaders. Recent methodological trajectories also blurred boundaries among microhistory, life history, and social history, further challenging the notion that biography applied only to the powerful, or the already famous.

     One important example of such "ordinary biography" is Charles van Onselen's The Seed is Mine: The Life of Kas Maine, a South African Sharecropper, 1894–1985.5 The result of a collaborative oral history project, the book captures the energy and insights of an especially productive period of activist scholarship and teaching. Equally remarkable, it represents a major methodological move by a prominent Marxist social historian who intentionally wrote a biography—not a microhistory or life history—of an individual previously unknown to historians or general readers.6 By framing the book as a biography, van Onselen made a significant political claim: although unknown, Kas Maine was not unremarkable; his life of hard work and dignity was as deserving of being singled out as the lives of political leaders, both Black and White.

     Despite the heft of the book (649 pages) and the rich empirical detail, Kas Maine's biography looks different from conventional studies of statesmen and heroes, whether political or cultural. Van Onselen did not set out to write about an exemplary life, showing readers how to lead, or solve a crisis. Neither did he want to accomplish the kind of political objective often associated with popular recent biographies, such as getting someone elected, or establishing a historical legacy. The Seed is Mine instead documents the unrelenting consequences of race-based segregation: the challenges that legal disempowerment posed for ordinary Blacks in the land of their birth; the ingenuity and resilience of laboring people whose only choice was to make increasingly bad situations work for them in whatever limited ways were available, because the only alternative was starvation. Framing this everyman's tale around the narrative arc of one man's life, lamenting the setbacks and celebrating the accomplishments of a single person is significantly different from a social history, even one focused on a named individual. By using the genre of biography for Kas Maine's history, van Onselen made powerful claims about agency, alterity, and the central place that history-from-below now occupies in the field. Ordinary lives need not remain on the margins.7

     More recently, similar democratization and pluralization of biographies in world history has showcased a host of individuals: some exceptional for their actions, others important for what they reveal about typical past lives, the majorities of people too often left out of history. Examples of new biography in global context include Stewart Gordon's When Asia Was the World, Linda Colley's The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh, Anand Yang's "A Subaltern's China," James Sweet's Domingos Álvares, and Clare Anderson's Subaltern Lives.8

     New biographies in world history tend, not surprisingly, to document the lives of mobile, boundary-crossing people whose experiences help scholars visualize patterns of interaction or larger processes of encounter. This literature is also methodologically important for teaching. Antoinette Burton's The Postcolonial Careers of Santha Rama Rau, for example, explores the changing relationship between the United States and India through the writing and celebrity of Rama Rau, a popular commentator on India for American audiences in the mid twentieth century who subsequently faded from view.9 Burton uses a familiar technique to tell Rama Rau's story: recovering a silenced voice and showing readers why one person's story—although temporarily forgotten—is worth remembering. Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully's study of Sara Baartman, more notoriously recognized by a general audience as the "Hottentot Venus," inverts that approach. They take the well-known story of an individual who was already the subject of copious scholarship and make her biography fresh by looking at Baartman not as an object of inquiry, but instead as a human life whose story needed telling.10 Similarly, Virginia Scharff tackles a well-known figure and succeeds in providing a new insight on Thomas Jefferson by triangulating his perspective through the women in his life: his mother, his wife, his daughters, and his slave mistress, Sally Hemmings.11

     By paying attention not just to what individual lives can tell us about past events, but by also being explicit about the methods scholars use to investigate, reconstruct, and present biographies in a global context, teachers can use the narrative power of singular stories to emphasize historical thinking skills such as point of view, cause and effect, and the role of agency.

Emerging Perspectives on Biography in World History

     This Forum seeks to put this global trend into dialogue with recent biographies created in regional or area studies contexts in order to incorporate insights from locally-oriented scholarship into world history teaching, learning, and research. With two research articles and two review essays we highlight new global biographies-in-progress and provide reviews of current scholarship in regions that tend to receive less attention in survey courses—imperial Russia and Africa before the twentieth century. Together, these essays comment on a moment of exciting possibilities in both research and pedagogy oriented toward individual experiences.

     This small collection invites students and teachers to explore Brazil, Africa, Imperial Russia, and the Indian Ocean world through individual lives. These individuals—soldiers, artists, women leaders, peasants, and merchants—lived generally before the 1900s. Collectively, their biographies emphasize the mobility of people and ideas throughout history. Introducing students to compelling, evidence-rich biographies of early-modern people on the move refutes that notion that mobility is only characteristic of more recent times. Equally important, the individuals discussed in these essays defy easy categorization, whether according to profession, nationality, or social status.

     Boundary crossing, combining, and innovating are central themes in the Forum's two research articles. Laura Mitchell's paper tracks a soldier's movements geographically across oceans and bureaucratically through the ranks and institutions of the French empire. Between 1756 and 1786 Louis Lafite made at least two round-trips from France to India and a third outbound journey at least as far as the Cape of Good Hope. It is remarkable enough that a rank and file soldier survived thirty years in military service, and that a European lived through multiple sailings of a route that killed about two-thirds of those who embarked for the Indies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Mitchell's research recovers an even bigger surprise, though: administrative records and the maps Lafite drew on the orders of his superior officers enable an initial reconstruction of his life. Although still fragmentary, Lafite's biography reveals the importance of personal interactions across imperial spheres of influence—not just within heterogenous empires.

     Cristina Mehrtens' research makes boundary crossing both literal and ideological. By foregrounding social, intellectual, and economic interactions rather than geographic mobility, Mehrtens offers teachers a radical way to approach modernism, locating the conversation in twentieth-century Brazil, which is not usually central to the study of modernity in a survey class. Her study of two twentieth-century Brazilian artists does not focus primarily on physical mobility, though both Anita Malfatti and Tarsila do Amaral traveled back and forth to Europe. Instead, Mehrtens' investigation of modernity centers on the circulation of ideas, asking how individuals shaped global ideas—in this case modernism—to suit local circumstances in Brazil.

     Mehrtens' contribution describes two women at the center of the creation of Brazilian artistic modernity. Malafatti and Amaral were creative individuals, brokers, and translators of ideas of European artistic trends. They deliberately refashioned global currents to reflect Brazilian sentiments. Although they did not write their own memoirs, these women's lives and careers demonstrated a self-consciousness about their roles in debating and creating their own professional, artistic, and modernist identities. This awareness makes them fascinating, challenging subjects and Mehrtens' essay showcases some of the complexities involved in studying such individuals and their re-interpretations by subsequent generations.

     The theme of boundary crossing—especially of categories of social class and identity—features prominently in many of the biographies reviewed by Mark A. Soderstrom and Andrea Felber Seligman. Each author discusses an array of recently published biographies well-suited to various classrooms. These reviews highlight the potential of such biographies to reveal lesser-known yet often remarkable individuals whose lives challenge generalizations and promote nuanced understandings about imperial Russia and pre-twentieth century Africa. Among many works, Soderstrom describes Douglas Smith's The Pearl: A Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great's Russia.12 This biography relates the complex romance between Count Nicholas Sheremetev (17511809) and Praskovia Kovalyova (17681803), Sheremetev's serf, who became a renowned opera singer and his lover. The account of this controversial romance (enthralling in itself) also showcases various individuals who articulated evolving categories of "serf" and "noble." With this biography and others, Soderstrom underscores how individual identities (so often treated as static categories in our times) were, in fact, fluid and negotiable in imperial Russia. The biography of Semën Semënovich Atarshchikov (18071845) by Michael Khodarkovsky elaborates this insight. Bitter Choices: Loyalty and Betrayal in the Russian Conquest of the North Caucasus describes a man whose professional life evolved from that of a model Russian soldier to a Cossack rebel who fought against Russian forces.13 As the title suggests, Atarshchikov lived a difficult life, yet the fragmented array of identities and loyalties he navigated thoroughly deconstructs generalizations about imperial Russians as a homogenous group of people. Such a biography, like so many other examples in our Forum, pushes readers to interrogate their own understandings of commonly applied categories in world history.

     Underscoring similar conclusions, Seligman reviews several recent biographies of exceptional individuals who redefined categories of race, power, and identity in African diasporas. Omar H. Ali's biography Malik Ambar: Power and Slavery Across the Waters takes us to the heart of such discussions with an example of a remarkable individual from the African diaspora in the Indian Ocean world.14 Enslaved as a young boy, Malik was sent from Ethiopia to Southern India where he became a slave soldier. There he worked his way through the ranks to become one of the most powerful generals who fought to preserve the autonomy of the region's small kingdoms against the expanding Mughal Empire. Malik Ambar's experiences challenge readers to appreciate the variability of enslaved peoples' experiences in world history. In southern India, Malik's talent for strategy and governance earned him social mobility, and ultimately his freedom, in a context where talent, not necessarily race, ethnicity, or origin, was the deciding factor.

     Many, although not all, of these biographies describe remarkable individuals who were (or became) powerful people. Fascinating examples in their own right, such exceptional lives also encourage further research into their more typical counterparts. The very exceptionality of lives such as Sheremetev, Kovalyova, Atarshchikov, and Malik illuminate lesser known arenas (such as the military or the arts) where others likely crossed similar boundaries, although they may have left sparser (or yet undiscovered) historical traces.

     Along these lines, many reviewed biographies also reveal ways in which individuals and their own societies reflected upon their lived experiences. Seligman's essay considers the newly translated The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros edited by Wendy Laura Belcher and Michael Kleiner.15 This account is a complex and valuable example of Ethiopia's rich literary tradition of hagiographic writing, written in 1672 approximately thirty years after Walatta's death. Likewise, various biographies in Soderstrom's essay indicate how individuals evaluated their own experiences by writing diaries, performing identities, and even by taking new names (as Atarshchikov does in Bitter Choices.)16 Together such commemorative practices direct us towards new possibilities for research, learning, and teaching.

New Biographies in the Classroom

     Pedagogically, new biographies have potential to re-shape world history, often taking students beyond the scenes of the world history stage into individuals' lives and the complexities of reconstructing their experiences. World history textbooks reflect this opportunity, introducing features that encourage teachers to bring individual lives into history classrooms, and thus to make room for biography—especially as the genre has been reconfigured by feminist and other activist scholarship. Valerie Hansen's and Kenneth Curtis' Voyages in World History begins each chapter with a vignette about a traveler, focusing students' attention on the role of individuals within a narrative that emphasizes large-scale processes.17 Ross Dunn and Laura Mitchell take a different approach in Panorama: A World History, including a biographical sketch accompanied by a portrait in each chapter.18 Other text and images in the chapters reference significant historical actors, but the "Individuals Matter" feature enables the book to address the experiences of ordinary people alongside the rulers and change makers that readers expect to encounter in a survey.

     This move to include named, recoverable individuals in world history narratives marks a shift in the field. It represents one response to critics who have called for more human-centered, more diverse approaches to the global past.19 Paying attention to biography in world history is hardly a turn away from large scale processes, a rejection of collaboration around big data, or a challenge to the growing enthusiasm for Big History. Rather, this interest signals a parallel development in the field. The world is certainly large enough for both micro and macro analysis to continue to thrive.

     Taken together, the four papers in this Forum address topics that are central to teaching world history surveys, but they come at these topics from new perspectives and set standard themes in a new context, doing the historian's work of making the familiar strange and so encouraging students and teachers alike to interrogate things we may too easily take for granted. For example, neither France nor Russia typically star in introductions to early-modern empires, though both might be high on the list for teaching absolutism. Mitchell's and Soderstrom's essays demonstrate how both empires can be brought into conversation about imperial experience through attention to individual lives. Similarly, introductions to the history of chartered companies and European commercial expansion in the Indian Ocean typically cover the British and Dutch examples, but rarely include the French company. Louis Lafite's interaction with the Dutch East India Company's military commander at the Cape of Good Hope is a springboard for considering the role of the Compagnie des Indes, too. The intertwined possibilities of social class, power, and possibilities come to light with Mehrtens' close attention to women painters' who redefined modernism in Brazil. And the works Seligman reviews showcase both examples of pre-eighteenth-century African writing along with several new biographies that each offers dynamic individual experiences that take multiple familiar classroom themes in new directions.

     Beyond bringing "unusual suspects" to the table, this Forum highlights a number of creative ways we can research and present biographic materials. Mitchell's analysis of Lafite, for instance, draws extensively on his cartographic productions as the major inspiration for her research into this fascinating individual's life. Taking such visual evidence seriously as a central (though not exclusive) site of analysis deepens the pool of future biographical subjects. Researchers and instructors alike might explore the possibilities of creating biographies for individuals who, even if not perceived (immediately) as politically or economically significant, nonetheless created significant visual, statistical, or material culture records. Mehrtens' attention to the two women painters Malfatti and Amaral indicates another example of such approaches.

     Presenting biographies, too, has come a long way from the classic 400+ page tome. Instead, eager readers and instructors alike have a wealth of options to consider. Soderstrom's review essay features the example of "imaginative reconstruction" where editors Donald Ostrowski and Marshall Poe compiled twenty-three life stories written by leading history scholars about various average people in early modern Russia.20 In Portraits of Old Russia: Imagined Lives of Ordinary People, 1300–1725, students can explore historically accurate sketches of a cross-section of Russian society from peasants and merchants to nobles. Even prose no longer limits the way we present biographies to students. Seligman evaluates the innovative graphic history, Abina and the Important Men, by Trevor Getz and Liz Clark. Abina combines a graphic narrative with a nineteenth-century legal transcript and contextual essays in one publication ideal for multiple student levels.21 Not only does this biography delight students (and teachers too) with its graphic format, it also makes transparent many of the steps and questions involved in historical research, from archival work to interpretation and public presentation. Now in a second edition and offering a phone app for hi-tech students, Abina is one of many examples taking us forward towards new formats and pedagogies for world history classrooms.22


     Boundary crossing, cultural adaptation, and mobility all are powerful themes made visible by close attention to a few lives, whether exceptional or typical. The essays of this Forum show that a focus on individuals can, indeed, help us interpret larger processes, such as slavery, empire building, or cultural formation. As Soderstrom notes, a biographical approach ". . . helps the reader see cultural mixing, diversity, and empire not as features of the frontier, but as fundamental components of the Russian polity." In other words, both the heartland and the borderlands were heterogenous, an insight that resonates not just in Russia, and not only in the eighteenth century.

     Although some of the allure of new biographies is the recovery of ordinary experience, the texture of daily life and the rhythms of earlier periods can come through in both popular and elite registers. As Scharff's treatment of Jefferson and the wildly popular Hamilton musical suggest, biographies of "important" people aren't dead. But the categorization of "important"—especially for US audiences—has certainly grown. The success of the African biography series recently launched by the Ohio University Press attests to continued reader interest in the lives and histories of those who shaped politics or transformed ideas.23 The challenges, successes, and shortcomings of people such as Steve Biko, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf continue to matter.

     One powerful conclusion is that history, like a person's life, offers complexities, contradictions, and often defies generalizations. As an additional theme for many history classrooms, such is arguably a fine take-away lesson about the past (and indeed one's own life for the present). Inviting students to engage with stories that matter opens doors to greater historical understanding, human empathy, and an accessible way to make method explicit. Students can focus clearly on an individual subject, a life reassembled from scattered evidence. Mehrtens reminds us that, "It is on those pieces of evidence from the past (interviews, data, artifacts) that biographers build their interpretations and reinterpretations of people's lives." When the subject is fine grained enough that students can see the connections to evidence, they can begin to think like historians. When the subjects are human and compelling, they will want to.

Laura J. Mitchell teaches African and world histories at the University of California, Irvine. Her first book, Belongings: Property, Family, and Identity in Colonial South Africa—An Exploration of Frontiers, 1725–c.1830 won the American Historical Association's Gutenberg-e prize. She served a term on the World History Association Executive Council, and co-chaired the AP World History test development committee for five years. She is co-author, with Ross Dunn, of Panorama: A World History, and of The New World History: A Field Guide for Teachers and Researchers with Ross Dunn and Kerry Ward. She also co-edited a volume with Alan Karras, Encounters Old and New in World History: Essays Inspired by Jerry Bentley, due out in June 2017 from the University of Hawai'i Press. She can be reached at

Andrea Felber Seligman is an assistant professor of African history at City College of New York. She specializes in pre-eighteenth century African history. Her research interests include the Indian Ocean world, African art, African-European encounters, and the use of non-documentary sources. She received her PhD from Northwestern University in 2014, and her doctoral field research was supported by a Fulbright Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award. She has published articles in The International Journal of African Historical Studies and History in Africa. Her book manuscript in progress, Crafting New Economies: Inland Trade in Central East Africa, ca. 1st–17th Centuries, examines the roles played by small-scale traders, artisans, and resource specialists behind the formation of wider trade networks. She was a Mellon Sawyer Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 20152016 and taught previously at Allegheny College. She can be reached at


1 Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (New York: Penguin Books, 2005).

2 The quick uptake on a thread in the American Historical Association's online community forum about teaching students to better differentiate between genuine and fake news stories points to another pedagogical benefit of using biographies in class. Elements of aggrandizement, hero-worship, or excessive critique can be easier for students to discern on an individual scale. See the conversation that started December 12, 2016 here:

3 For an elaboration of those skills, see the AHA Tuning Project's description of core competencies: See also the College Board's framework for the Advanced Placement course in World History:

4 For an introduction to these historiographical developments, see Peter Burke, ed., New Perspectives on Historical Writing, 2nd ed. (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2001). On new approaches to biography, see Jill Lepore, "Historians Who Love Too Much: Reflections on Microhistory and Biography," Journal of American History 88, no. 1 (June 2001): 129144; and the American Historical Review forum "Historians and Biography," American Historical Review 114, no. 3 (June 2009): 573661. On the relationship between microhistory and world history, see Francesca Trivellato, "Is There a Future for Italian Microhistory in the Age of Global History?" California Italian Studies Journal 2, no. 1 (January 1, 2011), Significant examples of these methodological innovations include: for micro-history, Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller, trans. John Tedeschi and Anne C. Tedeschi (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982). Beyond the realm of microhistory, other methodologies have creatively widened a historian's array of possible sources. A few student-friendly introductions to these other approaches include, Christopher Ehret, History and the Testimony of Language (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011); John Edward Philips, ed., Writing African History (Rochester: University of Rochester Press, 2005); David Ludden, ed., Reading Subaltern Studies: Critical History, Contested Meaning and the Globalization of South Asia (London: Wimbledon Publishing Company, 2002); Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, 20th ed. (Boston: Beacon Press, [1995], 2015); Donald A. Ritchie, Doing Oral History: a Practical Guide, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); Catherine Armstrong, Using Non-Textual Sources: a Historian's Guide (London: Bloomsbury, 2016); Laurel Thatcher Ulrich et. al., eds., Tangible Things: Making History Through Objects (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

5 Charles van Onselen, The Seed Is Mine: The Life of Kas Maine, a South African Sharecropper, 1894–1985 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1996).

6 As a point of comparison, see van Onselen's research articles that position Kas Maine as exemplary of the South African peasantry and larger social processes and the life-history approach published by other scholars involved in the project. Charles van Onselen, "Race and Class in the South African Countryside: Cultural Osmosis and Social Relations in the Sharecropping Economy of the South Western Transvaal, 19001950," The American Historical Review 95, no. 1 (1990): 99–123; Charles van Onselen, "Paternalisme et Violence Dans Les Fermes Du Transvaal de 1900 à 1950," Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 47, no. 1 (1992): 5–34; Malete Nkadimeng and Georgina Relly, "Kas Maine: The Story of a Black South African Agriculturalist," in Belinda Bozzoli, ed., Town and Countryside in the Transvaal: Capitalist Penetration and Popular Response (Johannesburg: Ravan Press, 1983), 89–107.

7 Contrast to Natalie Zemon Davis' collection of life histories, Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1997).

8 Stewart Gordon, When Asia Was the World Traveling Merchants, Scholars, Warriors, and Monks Who Created the "Riches of the "East" (New York: Da Capo Press, 2007); Linda Colley, The Ordeal of Elizabeth Marsh: A Woman in World History (New York: Pantheon, 2007); Anand Yang, "A Subaltern's China: An Indian Soldier's Account of the Boxer Uprising and the World in 19001," in Robert Bickers, ed., The Boxers, China and the World (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007), 4364; James H. Sweet, Domingos Álvares, African Healing, and the Intellectual History of the Atlantic World (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011); Clare Anderson, Subaltern Lives: Biographies of Colonialism in the Indian Ocean World, 1790–1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

9 Antoinette Burton, The Post Colonial Careers of Santha Rama Rau (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007).

10 Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully, Sara Baartman and the Hottentot Venus: A Ghost Story and a Biography (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

11 Virginia Scharff, The Women Jefferson Loved (New York: Harper, 2007).

12 Douglas Smith, The Pearl: A True Tale of Forbidden Love in Catherine the Great's Russia (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2008).

13 Michael Khodarkovsky, Bitter Choices: Loyalty and Betrayal in the Russian Conquest of the North Caucasus (Ithaca and New York: Cornell University Press, 2011).

14 Omar H. Ali, Malik Ambar: Power and Slavery Across the Indian Ocean (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

15 Wendy Laura Belcher and Michael Kleiner, eds. and trans., The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros, Written by Galawdewos: a Seventeenth-Century African Biography of an Ethiopian Woman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015).

16 Khodarkovsky, Bitter Choices.

17 Valerie Hansen and Ken Curtis, Voyages in World History (Boston: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2013).

18 Ross Dunn and Laura J. Mitchell, Panorama: A World History (New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015).

19 Ross Dunn, Laura J. Mitchell, and Kerry Ward, The New World History: A Field Guide For Teachers and Researchers (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2016), Chapter 10.

20 Donald Ostrowski and Marshall T. Poe, Portraits of Old Russia: Imagined Lives of Ordinary People, 1300–1725 (Armonk and London: M. E. Sharpe, 2011).

21 Trevor R. Getz and Liz Clarke, Abina and the Important Men: A Graphic History, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).

22 Ebuukuu LLC, "Abina the app," iTunes Preview,, 2016, accessed December 20, 2016.

23 A complete list of titles in the "Ohio Short Histories of Africa" series, more than half of which are biographies, is available here:

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