As prosopography or prosopography (from Greek πρόσωπον prosopon "face", γράφειν gráphein "write" ) is referred to in historical studies the systematic study of a particular group of people. The selection of persons is usually a combination of geographical, temporal and socio - political criteria. The results of the research, for example in terms of origin, careers or family connections, except in special studies such as those Ronald Syme's or Lewis Namier often published in alphabetical or systematic parent directories with source information (eg Prosopographia Imperii Romani, prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, prosopography of the middle Byzantine period, prosopography chrétienne du Bas - Empire, Prosopographisches Encyclopedia of Palaeologi, Pastor books). Such directories have except for the social history for personal and family history is very important. In a broader sense, each Ortsfamilienbuch is a prosopography.
To distinguish it from the known as prosopography in the strict sense of people creating directories, especially in the Old and Medieval History, is the method of collective biography more common for the modern and contemporary history applied: It deals more comparative, eg in regards the origin, careers or family connections with the persons to be examined and their social environment. Likelihood of confusion in particular by the English use of the term Prosopography which relates since Lawrence Stone on the collective biography.