Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of 60,000 men and women who shaped the history of the British Isles and of Britons worldwide, from the ‘earliest times’ to the 21st century.    

The ODNB is the world’s largest collaborative research project in the humanities, providing concise, up-to-date biographies written by 13,000 specialists from 52 countries. In addition to its 60,000 biographies, the Dictionary includes more than 500 thematic essays (setting individuals in historical context), and 11,500 portrait likenesses, researched in association with the National Portrait Gallery, London.

Website: http://www.oxforddnb.com/

Screen shot of the ODNB

The ODNB was first published in 2004, in 60 print volumes and online. Since 2004 a continuation project has extended and developed the ODNB’s online edition. Updates are published in January, May, and September of each year and have added a further 5000 biographies and thematic essays since 2004. Roughly half of these new biographies are of people from the very recent past who died (all people in the ODNB are deceased) in the 21st century. Other biographies extend the Dictionary’s coverage across earlier periods in the light of recent scholarship and publications. Updates also revise existing biographies in response to new research.

Dictionary editors also run a programme of public engagement with other national institutions (museums, galleries, the National Trust, English Heritage, and national biographies worldwide), as well as with British public libraries and university research projects in the UK and the United States.

The Oxford DNB is a research and publishing project of the Oxford History Faculty and Oxford University Press. The work of commissioning, editing, writing, updating, and promoting the Dictionary is undertaken by a small team of Oxford historians: Philip Carter, Mark Curthoys, and Alex May.

The ODNB’s general editor (from October 2014) is Sir David Cannadine who, in his capacity as editor, is also a Visiting Professor in the Oxford History Faculty. 

The ODNB have recorded over 250 life stories from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography(Oxford DNB) – Boudicca to Bobby MooreMrs Simpson to Mills & Boon.

You can download an individual life or subscribe to their fortnightly biography podcast, released on iTunes as ‘Oxford Biographies’. Each episode lasts between 10 and 30 minutes.

elizabeth parsons

Elizabeth Parsons, the Cock Lane Ghost (1749–1807), imposter

sylvia pankhurst

Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960), suffragette

pre raphaelite

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (1848-54), artists


Odo of Bayeux (d. 1097), commissioner of the Bayeux Tapestry

jack sheppard

Jack Sheppard (1702-1724), thief and prison-breaker

alice liddell

Alice Liddell (1852-1934), the real-life in Alice in Wonderland

eric hobsbawm

Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012), historian and political writer

margaret roper

Margaret Roper (1505-1544), scholar and daughter of Thomas More

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