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Michigan State University

Political Science / Public Policy Resources: Biography


A collection of reference tools that identify key players in government, political science, and public policy issues. Subscription resources come first, then free sites from the Internet.

Biography Reference Tools

Biography and Genealogical Master Index : An online index which helps identify which biographical tools have entries on your favorite person.  Indexes more than 2000 biographical reference sources, providing access to more than 9.2 million citations on approximately 3 million contemporary and historical figures. The database covers a wide range of current biographical sources as well as the most important retrospective sources. 

Biography Index Past and Present (1984 to date).  Search biographical material from ALL WilsonWeb periodicals databases—with just this one database!  Biography Index cites biographical articles appearing in any of more than 3,000 periodicals indexed in other Wilson databases, plus select other titles. What’s more, some 2,000 current books of individual and collective biography are cited each year, as well as biographical material in otherwise non-biographical books....Besides biographies and autobiographies, you’ll find citations to interviews, obituaries, collections of letters, diaries, memoirs, juvenile literature, book reviews, bibliographies and exhibition reviews.  People covered range from antiquity to the present and represent all fields and nationalities.

Dictionary of Political Biography via Oxford Reference Online : Dennis Kavanagh, ed. Oxford University Press, 2003. Includes more than 1000 entries. Compiled by an expert team of contributors, this dictionary covers all the major figures in world politics of the twentieth century. Authoritative and wide-ranging, it describes and assesses the lives of more than 1000 men and women who have shaped political events across the world. Each entry includes an account of the background, career, and achievements of the individual concerned, balancing fact with critical appraisal. 

Biography Tools Available over the Internet

American President : Targeting college undergraduates and high school students, American is the Internet's most comprehensive, non-partisan resource on the history and workings of the American presidency. The website includes extensive biographies of every president and first lady; richly detailed event timelines; biographies of cabinet officials, presidential staffers, and advisers; multimedia resource galleries for each of the 43 presidencies; essays on key areas of presidential responsibility; and articles about White House administrative units. An editorial board of renowned scholars oversees all site content. Courtesy of the University of Michigan, Miller Center of Public Affairs.

Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774 to Present : This site provides biographies of members of the U.S. Congress and the Continental Congress since 1774. Delegates who served in Congress from the territories are also listed. There are also links to a wealth of information about the U.S. Congress in general. 

Biography Center : Although not focusing on political biographies as such, this web site does provide links to many politicians from around the world available over the web. Current covers 10764 biographies (10284 biographies in English). 

Diplomatic List : The Diplomatic List, of missions in the U.S., is prepared quarterly by the Office of Protocol. It contains the names of members of the diplomatic staffs of all missions and their spouses. Members of the diplomatic staff are the members of the staff of the mission having diplomatic rank. These persons, with the exception of those identified by asterisks, enjoy full immunity under provisions of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Founding Fathers: Delegates to the Constitutional Convention : The National Archives and Records Administration presents biographies and portraits of the 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Insider's Guide to Policy Experts and Organizations : Policy Experts is your single-source directory for locating knowledgeable authorities and leading policy institutes actively involved in a broad range of public policy issues, both domestic and foreign. Journalists, researchers, public officials and conference planners find it to be an indispensable guide for locating the right expert at a moment's notice.
Our online format is updated monthly and searchable by name, affiliation, location or more than 160 areas of expertise. The database of organizations includes mission statements, tax-status, websites and priority issues. 

National First Ladies' Library : Developed and maintained by the Stark State College of Technology in Canton, Ohio, this new site is the first virtual library devoted to the history of America's First Ladies. At the heart of the site is a comprehensive bibliographic database containing 40,000 books, articles, letters, manuscripts, and other works by and about the 43 First Ladies. Both the site and the new physical library aim to bring materials together to fill a longstanding informational void in both American women's studies and the history of the presidency. Source: Scout Report, February 27, 1998.

Political Graveyard : How and why did this site come to be? Many years ago, browsing in the biography section of the MSU Library, I came across an edition of the Biographical Directory of the American Congress (most recently retitled Biographical Directory of the United States Congress), which gives a little squib on everyone who had ever served in the U.S. House or Senate, as Vice President, or in the Continental Congress. I was intrigued to see that the specific place of burial was given for just about every deceased member. A few minutes' work revealed that eleven of Michigan's U.S. Senators were buried in Detroit's Elmwood Cemetery. The directory was a fabulous treasure trove of information about historic cemeteries in all parts of the country, across every period of U.S. history; I wished there was some way to organize the data by place of burial. There is also an alphabetical index, an index by date or year of birth, by office held or sought, by place of birth or death, and others. [Note: As of July 2001, the database lists 81,279 politicians, living and dead, from the 1700s to the present.] Surely a labor of love by Lawrence Kestenbaum. 

Presidents : An index on the presidents of the United States and contains information and documents of their speeches, writings, biographies and anything else related to their person or the office they are holding. 

Rulers : This site contains lists of heads of state and heads of government (and, in certain cases, de facto leaders which don't occupy either of those formal positions) of all currently existing countries and territories. Also included are the subdivisions of some countries (the links are at the bottom of the respective country entries), as well as some international organizations. Foreign ministers of all countries are listed separately.

Skeleton Closet : Tracks the skeletons in the closets of major and sometimes not so major national political figures, keeping track of allegations by mainstream and semi-mainstream sources. It's maintained by Real People for Real Change, a group of West Coasters claiming to be "fed up with politics, especially media coverage of politics" and pledging "to do something (about it) besides bitch and drink like everybody else does". 

World Leaders / Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments : Updated monthly. Also includes Ambassadors to the United States and Heads of Central Banks. Courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Print Biography Collections

American Presidents / editors, Robert P. Watson, Richard Yon.  Pasadena, Calif. : Salem Press, c2006.  3rd edition, 2 volumes.  Main Library E176.1 .A6563 2006 : In the 200 years since its inception, the U.S. presidency has survived controversy, scandal, resignation, civil war and assassination. Every individual who has assumed the title of president has left a mark, for good or ill, on American history. American Presidents examines the strengths and weaknesses, the successes and failures of each Chief Executive.

American Statesmen : Secretaries of State From John Jay to Colin Powell / edited by Edward S. Mihalkanin.  Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 2004.  571pp.  Main Library E176 .A596 2004 : The Secretary of State is in charge of defining and implementing U.S. foreign policy. While that role has weakened some over the past fifty years, a mere roll call of illustrious past Secretaries of State invokes the position's importance. Thomas Jefferson, Henry Kissinger, John Quincy Adams, William Jennings Bryan, Henry Clay, James Madison, George C. Marshall, George Schultz, and Daniel Webster are just a few of the Secretaries profiled within these 65 entries. Arranged A-to-Z, each essay is multifaceted, offering information personal, professional, and political. The majority of each piece deals with foreign policy ideas before he or she became the Secretary, what American foreign policy was like while in office, and the major foreign policy issues during tenure. Each piece concludes with a concise and useful bibliography.

Encyclopedia of the United States Cabinet / Mark Grossman.  Santa Barbara, Calif. : ABC-CLIO, c2000.  3 volumes.  Main Library E176 .G89 2000 : "This encyclopedia is the first work of its kind devoted entirely to the history of the United States Cabinet and its secretaries. Arranged alphabetically by cabinet department, it provides a history of the department and detailed biographical and historical entires of the members who served in some of the nation's highest positions....Covers the history of each cabinet department and all the individuals who served as cabinet secretaries from the founding of the republic to the present, including those who served with the Confederacy.

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