Guidelines for writing biographical notes

  1. Introductory title of the note

1.1. Keep to the following pattern:

Francqui, Emile (Brussels, 25 June 1863 – Overijse, 16 November 1935), soldier, businessman and politician.

1.2. Name of the person in small capitals, followed by the main official first name (in full, no initial) or, if needed, by the usual first name (do not mention the other first names); mention first the nickname if this one is commonly used (in that case, mention the official surname as well). Mention also, if needed, the name adopted in a religious order.

1.3. Birth and death place as well as dates in brackets. Write out the names of months in full. If necessary, mention clearly: “birth (or death) place unknown” or “birth (or death) date unknown”. If the birth and/or death place is situated in Belgium (or in the corresponding territories prior to the birth of that state), mention only the town or village. If the birth and/or death place is situated in a foreign country, add it after the town’s name (unless the place is a well-known capital). Birth place and date on the one hand, and death place and date on the other hand, are separated by a long dash.

1.4. Mention the main activities as synthetically and clearly as possible. So, do not mention any qualifications or precise duties (allowing for special exceptions). So, do not present Francqui as a “Senior Minister” or as the “Governor of the Société Générale”.


  1. Content of the note

2.1. Mention the family ties (names of parents if possible) and, in any case, specify the social background of the person. Possible marriage(s) and descendants should be mentioned in the course of the note, when such events occur (for instance when “private” life is handled, see below).

2.2. Mention the possible educational degree course and/or the professional sector in which the person concerned was involved in his/her early life. Do not necessarily make a complete list of all the institutions frequented, of all the diplomas taken or of all the jobs carried out – unless this plays a determining role in the person’s life.

2.3. If necessary, describe the philosophical, religious, ideological and/or political beliefs and affinities (to be mentioned when these play a role in the life of the person concerned).

2.4. Among the person’s significant public activities, the “overseas” aspects should of course be particularly emphasized. The other sides of his/her life will not be passed over but they will be only briefly mentioned (reference to other notes or biographies: see bibliography).

2.5. Private activities and hobbies on the fringe of the “public” career should be mentioned provided they reveal an important side of the person concerned. The features considered “delicate” of a person will not be passed over but will be presented without  any controversial bias (see below).

2.6. Given the subject of this Dictionary, very special attention should be paid to the international contacts developed by the person concerned.

2.7. Honorary decorations and distinctions of the person concerned will be mentioned only if these have a particular importance.

2.8. The notes should of course be scientifically based. They will consequently rest on the exposition, analysis, interpretation and synthesis of accurate events and recognized situations, all that in a critical mind.

  • The author will not merely list events; he/she doesn’t have to make a curriculum vitae, but rather to describe the coherence (or incoherence) of a biographic path with its guiding lines, its possible contradictions, its causes and effects, its integration into a global context and its links with it. This global context, however, will be very briefly mentioned.
  • “Critical mind” does not mean “moral judgment”. The author will not give any good marks or pass any sentences. Therefore, apologetic clichés and generalizations commonly used in funeral orations (“courage”, “humanity”, “tenacity”, etc.) as well as general negative terms (“cruelty”, “unkindness”, etc.) should be particularly avoided. Such characterizations will be used only if the author mentions specific acts or events or when the analysis of a coherent succession of facts shows and proves the evaluation used.
  • If some aspects of the biography or of the general context are (still) badly known or are given divergent appreciations in the scientific literature, these should be clearly mentioned.
  • The “critical fortune” of the person concerned, both before and after death (opinions of contemporaries, evolution of his/her image after death, etc) should also be reported.


  1. Formal aspects of the note

3.1. Language used for the note: English, French or Dutch (choice left to the writer of the note).

3.2. In the text of the note, the person described may be referred to either (or alternately) by his/her first name and surname, or by his/her surname only. The first name’s initial(s) or a complete abbreviation will never be used; the person concerned will never be referred to by his/her first name alone. For example, write “Emile Francqui then went to …” or “Francqui set up the Société …”, instead of “Emile started …” or “E. Francqui replied …” or even “E.F. decided…”.

3.3. Geographical place names will be written in the language used for the writing of the note concerned (e.g. in an English text : Ghent, Mons, London, Stanleyville, Germany etc.  ; in a French text : Gand, Mons, Londres, Stanleyville, Allemagne, etc. ; in a Dutch text : Gent, Bergen, Londen, Stanleystad, Duitsland, etc.)

3.4. For the indication of dates, use Arab numerals (with exponent). For example, 17th century (and not XVIIth century). Mention the months in full (e.g. 13 July 1935 and not 13.07.1935).

3.5. Abbreviations: institutions or organizations will be mentioned completely and in full when they first appear (with the abbreviation in brackets); in the rest of the text only the abbreviation will be used.

3.6. Titles and function descriptions will be limited at most. When a third person is mentioned for the first time, he/she will appear with his/her first name and function (e.g. “Emile Francqui met the minister of Colonies Jules Renkin on the occasion of …”); subsequently he/she will be mentioned only through his/her surname without the previously specified function (barring, of course, change in the meantime).

3.7. Quotations: short quotations may be reproduced in the text in quotation marks and in italics, providing the original source is given in a footnote.

3.8. Notes may include footnotes, but these should be reduced as much as possible, both regarding number and length.

3.9. Sources and scientific bibliography will appear at the end of the note. These two kinds of information will be clearly set apart.

  • 3.9.1. The sources consist of original contemporary documents. A distinction will be made between archive sources and printed ones.

As far as the former is concerned, provide, as much as possible, complete references; regarding the offices where the archives are held, see the rule above regarding the institutions followed by the place concerned. For example: Archives générales du Royaume (agr), Brussels, Forthomme Papers, no. x.

With regard to printed sources, the same system will be used as that for scientific works (see below).

Printed sources will also include the main publications of the person concerned. These will be mentioned under a special category, different from the other printed sources. The main unpublished autobiographical documents written by the person oneself (e.g. extensive correspondence, memoirs) will be mentioned among the archive sources, under a special heading.

  • 3.9.2. A selective list of the main scientific publications (books and articles), particularly about the person concerned, will be drawn up; studies related to the general context will be mentioned only exceptionally.
  • 3.9.3. With respect both to sources and scientific works, exhaustivity is of course not attainable. So, the author will have to be very selective and keep the main, most recent and most relevant titles only. As much as possible, the reader will be referred to specialized bibliographies or to other works (e.g. for a complete list of the publications of the person concerned, etc.).
  • 3.9.4. The following reference system will be used:

Surname in small letters, followed by the first name’s initial(s) in brackets; each part of the reference separated by a comma; title of the book or of the journal in italics; use “in” before the title of the journal or of the collective work; no inverted commas for the title of the article; mention respectively the volume numbering, title, issue and pages if it is a journal’s article; mention the place and publisher if it is a book or collective work. For the English titles of books and articles, use a capital in all the substantives and adjectives. For example:

- Ranieri (L.), Emile Francqui ou l’intelligence créatrice 1863-1935, Gembloux, Duculot, 1985.

- Stengers (J.), Hennepin et la découverte du Mississippi, in Bulletin de la Société royale belge de Géographie, 67-69, 1943-1945, n° 3, pp. 1-22.

- Stengers (J.), King’s Leopold Congo, 1886-1908, in Fage (J.D.) & Oliver (R.), eds., Cambridge History of Africa. Vol. 6. From 1870 to 1905, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1985, pp. 315-358.

With regard to reference books or journals’ titles, the above-mentioned rule for institutions’ abbreviations is to be applied: title in full (followed by the abbreviation) when first mentioned, then use of the abbreviation.

References are written in a smaller font (font 10).

3.10. Length of notes. The author freely chooses one of the following categories: category A: 300 words; category B: 600 words; category C: 1,200 words; category D (maximal length): 1,800 words. For your information, 600 words in single spacing (1) with font 12 are approximately equivalent to one page A4.

3.11. Illustrations. Without any obligation, every author is invited to provide one or several illustrations, in particular the photograph of the person described. These illustrations should be free of rights. The Academy cannot be charged for that matter.

3.12. In every note the writer’s first name and name will be mentioned including, if necessary, the scientific institution to which he/she is mainly attached and his/her electronic address.