„Until quite recently, no historian valuing their academic reputation would have embarked upon writing or editing a biography. While the genre has retained its appeal for the general public, experts had abandoned all biographical practices to the ‘amateurs’, not without some condescension on the part of the former towards the latter. This was due in part to the dominant disciplinary approaches, principally inspired by Marxism or structuralism and generally devoted to quantitative methods, which did not assign key roles to the individuals. A person was perceived exclusively as the product of collective responsibilities or relationships.
Such views and opinions have lately been challenged, especially by the aptly named ‘postcolonial studies’. These studies, without underestimating the importance of collective constraints, attribute an agency to the individual, the capacity to initiate actions which enable a person to influence his or her future. Therefore, the writing of historical biographies has evolved into a legitimate disciplinary approach. The Documentation Centre for Human Migrations (CDMH) in Dudelange (Luxembourg) has resorted to biographical research for some of its projects. We need only mention the exhibition Retour de Babel [Babel Returning], dealing with migrations to and from Luxembourg, and whose ‘very essence’ is represented by almost a hundred individual portraits. The project of producing a biography of Fr. Henri Werling SJ (1879-1961), a Luxembourg missionary to Estonia, is consistent with this new tradition.”