It is now more than twenty years since I first came across biographical research in connection
with my doctoral thesis. It was a time when this approach was beginning to re-establish itself
after half a century, in German sociology in particular but also at the international level.
Sociological biographical research began in the 1920s, in association with the migration study
The Polish Peasant in Europe and America by William Isaac Thomas and Florian Znaniecki
(1918–20; 1958) at the University of Chicago. Even then, empirical work was already concentrating
on the single case study. Alongside documentary analysis on the migration process, this
voluminous work contains only one biography of a Polish migrant, commissioned by the
researchers. It was not so much the concrete biographical analysis that made this work so influential for subsequent interpretative sociology and biographical research, but rather the two authors' general methodological comments.