My work covers entries on people active in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In collaboration with the Dictionary’s network of specialist advisers and authors, the process of compilation entails researching, selecting, commissioning, and editing new lives to be added to the Dictionary’s coverage, as well as incorporating newly-discovered information relating to existing entries.
Recent updates in which I have been involved have covered themes such as exiles to modern Britain from mainland Europe, pre-independence Ireland, modern Scotland and Wales, Britons in Latin America and Japan, the churches in the twentieth century, the police in Modern Britain, First World War lives, Olympians and their sporting predecessors, motoring, gardening, and photography, and most recently lives connected with Birmingham and the Black Country.
I have a particular interest in applying the genealogical sources which have become newly accessible as a result of digitization in the past decade to the Dictionary’s modern lives.
My own research has been in two areas: first, nineteenth-century public policy in relation to the legalization of trade unions and the de-criminalization of strikes; and secondly, the history of higher education in the nineteenth century, and especially the Victorian culture of examinations, social mobility and career patterns, and the prosopography of the emergent teaching body. Latterly, input from local history societies and other public engagement with the Dictionary has led to a focus on connexions between people and place in 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.