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Michigan State University

France: History and Literature: Biography Reference Sources

Use this guide to research topics in French history and literature. Last updated 06-05-2023

Biography Reference Sources

Who's Who in France. DC 36 .W46 Latest edition in Reference

Annual, covering France, French persons overseas, and French-speaking peoples in African countries. Short entries for prominent living persons. Text in French. Online from 2006-.  Paper copies go back to 1955/1956 in Main stacks.

Servir les Assemblees Histoire et Dictionnaire de l'Administration Parlementaire Francaise de 1789 a la Fin du XXe Siecle  Main JN 2791 .C665 2020 v.2

v. 2 is the dictionary.  Content of the dictionary volume is primarily biographical entries of a page or so, followed by further reading references, both primary and secondary.

Dictionnaire des Revolutionnaires Francais  Main DC 147 .B73 2014.

Dictionnaire des Conventionnels 1792-1795  Main DC 145 .D53 2022 v. 1-2

Signed entries by some 50 scholars.  Long biographical entries on the some 900 Frenchmen who governed France during these years, with lists of their publications, and sources about them.  Also has info on their activities before and after this period.

Biographical Dictionary of French Political Leaders Since 1870 Reference DC 342 .B56 1990

Le Grand Robert de Noms Propres: Dictionnaire Universel Alphabetique et Analogique des Noms Propres Main AG 25 .G7 1984 t. 1-5

Biographical Dictionary of French Censors 1742-1789 Main Z 658 .F7 H36 2005 v. 1-

Women in World History: a Biographical Encyclopedia Reference HQ 1115 .W66 1999 v. 1-17

Bibliographie Gay Ideale, Dictionnaire Critique et Quasi Exhaustif de la Litterature Gay Disponible en Langue Francaise  Main PN 56 .H57 B53 2020

Arranged alphabetically by author, with brief biographical details on most writers, but more info on some.  Following the bio details are titles of their works, with bibliographical details and annotations about them. 

Dictionnaire Universel des Creatrices Main CT 3230 .D54 2013 t. 1-3

Signed entries range in length from a paragraph to a page.  In French.  Covers women the world over, mostly deceased, significant in arts, geography, exploration, history, politics, economics, journalism, nursing, medicine, literature, publishing, science, technology, sports, humanities, etc.  Some topical and place name entries.  Some entries have works by the person.  Alphabetical arrangement.  Thematic index. 

Encyclopedia of Women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England Main HQ 1148 .W67 2007

Dictionnaire des Femmes Libraires en France (1470-1870) Main Z 305 .A67 2003

6424 alphabetically arranged short biographical entries or people involved in the French printing, publishing, bookbinding, bookselling, etc. trades from 1470-1870.  Entries give dates of birth/death, type of professional activity in the trades, sometimes titles of works printed.  Last third of the book is extensive appendices of the names arranged by century, 15th-16th, 17th, 18th, 19th.  Overall name index concludes.

Dictionnaire des Femmes des Lumieres.  Main DC 36.2 .D538 2015 v. 1-2

Covers 1694-1833. 470 entries.  Some topical as well as mostly biographical entries have further reading references.  Signed ntries from one to several pages in length

Dictionnaire des Feministes France XVIIIe-XXIe Siecle.  Main HQ 1115 .D532 2017

Also has some topical articles.  Signed entries.  Further reading references.  Biographical entries are 2-3 pages.  Some topical articles are longer.

Petit Dictionnaire des Femmes de la Commune, Les Obliees de l'Histoire.  Main DC 317 .R49 2013
Entries vary in length from a few lines to a page.  Some bw portraits.  Tells what specific women did during the time in 1870-71 when Paris had been captured by the Prussians.

Dictionnaire Biographique du Mouvement Ouvrier Français Main HD 8433 .A1 M3

Dictionnaire des Intellectuelles au Quebec  Main F 1051.8 .D52 2017

137 entries on persons, topics, and institutions from the 18th to 21st centuries written by over 80 specialists.  Arranged alphabetically, with two page table of entries by chronological period and dictionary style index. 

Dictionnaire Historique des Gens du Livre au Quebec Main Z 488.3 .Q4 D53 2022

Extensive, signed entries, with further reading references, of about 400 some "book people", those involved in publishing, printing, translation, illustration, distribution, bookstores, and librarianship in/of Quebec.   Introduction traces evolution of the book trades in Quebec.  Indexed by name of individual/institution/collectivities and by names of libraries/enterprises/publishers. 

Biography and Genealogy Master Index.  Link to this is at the end of the list of biographical dictionaries here.

Ecrits Feminins Non Fictionnels de la Renaissance: un Inventaire Descriptif Main Z 2173 .5 .W6 V35 2003


Passages et Ancrages en France, Dictionnaire des Ecrivans Migrants de Langue Francaise (1981-2011). Main PQ 41 .P3888 2012

Dictionnaire des Ecrivains Francophones Classiques:  Belgique, Canada, Quebec, Luxembourg, Suisse Romande  Main PQ 38089 .B53 2013

Entries for 153 authors (53 Belgian, 39 Swiss, 44 Quebecois, 7 Canadian, and 7 Luxembourgeois) born from 1786 to 1957. Signed entries of 1-5 pages each, with extensive bibliographies of authors'  works and works about them.

Dictionnaire des Corsaires et Pirates  Main G 535 .D495 2013

Over 600 signed entries about seafaring adventurers and shipowners, about a page long each.  Also has topical entries and entries for names of places all over the world associated with piracy, several black and white maps, a glossary of terms, and a chronology of world piracy from 1326 to 2012.  Emphasis, however, is pre-20th century.  Entries authored by professors, teachers, doctoral students, cartographers, geographers, archivists, independent scholars.

Dictionnaire des Etrangers Qui Ont Fait la France Main DC 36 .D534 2013

1200 paragraph length to a page, alphabetically arranged, signed entries about individuals who have written about France from 1789, but who are not from France itself.

110 Femmes Juives qui ont Marque la France XIXe et XXe Siecles  Main DS 135 .F89 B57 2014

Dictionnaire de l'Autobiographie, Ecritures de Soi de Langue Francaise Main PQ 145.6 .S32 D53 2017

Biographical entries for famous autobiographers, as well as topical entries on the subject of autobiography.  Entries range in length from half a page to several pages.  Further reading references.  Signed entries.



Older Biographical Reference Sources

Biographie Universelle, Ancienne et Moderne, etc.  Paris, Michaud, 1811-47.  80 vols. Online in HT, this and other eds.

Our print set is Main CT 143 .M5 in 45 vols.  published 1854-[1865]

Both this and Nouvelle Biographie…, next in this list, are enormous mid-19th-century dictionaries of universal biography, especially good for French persons. They contain much not available elsewhere. There are definite and well-recognized differences between these two. In spite of various inaccuracies, Michaud is more carefully edited, with longer articles signed with initials, longer, better bibliographic references, and it contains more names in the second half of the alphabet.   Nouvelle Biographie… contains more names, especially minor ones, from the early part of the alphabet,  has some articles which are better than the corresponding articles in Michaud, and in the source lists gives titles in the original language, whereas Michaud translates them into French.  To find the online set in HathiTrust, go to Books and Media and search title Hathitrust Digital Library Catalog.

Nouvelle Biographie Generale Depuis les Temps les Plus Recules Jusqu’a Nos Jours… Paris, Firmin Didot Freres, Fils, et Cie, 1855-66.  Remote Storage CT 143 .H5 t. 1-46  Also online in HT, this and other eds.

Standard French source but incomplete. Very numerous short (paragraph–page length) articles, so coverage is extensive. Articles have good source lists.  For coverage of the later part of the alphabet, other sources must be used, including those listed here.  See annotation for Biographie Universelle, Ancienne et Moderne…, above for comparison of the two works. To find the online version in HathiTrust go to Books and Media and search catalog for title Hathitrust Digital Library Catalog.

Biographie Universelle et Portative des Contemporains; ou, Dictionnaire Historique des Hommes Vivants….  Paris, Chez Editeur, 1836.  Main CT 143 .R3 t. 1-5 and Supp.  Also online in HT, this and other eds.

To find this online in HathiTrust go to Books and Media, search title Hathitrust Digital Library Catalog.

Dictionnaire de Biographie Francaise…. Paris, Letouzey et Ane, 1933-  Main CT 143 .D5 v. 1-20

V. 20 published 2011, covers last names through Lemarinel.  So last half of alphabet of this set is still in the works.