The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is a collection of 50,000 specially written biographies of men and women who have shaped all aspects of the British past, from the earliest times to the end of the year 2000. The stories of these lives - told in substantial, authoritative, and readable articles - have been published simultaneously in 60 print volumes and online.
Inclusive - Authoritative - Unique
The original DNB was conceived in 1882 by George Smith, publisher of the Brontes and Trollope, and first edited by Virginia Woolf's father, Sir Leslie Stephen. The editorial policy of the original DNB was remarkably inclusive: any person of note could be included who had lived in, or had a significant connection with the British Isles. The Oxford DNB takes a similarly inclusive approach: subjects range from the great and the good to the popular, pioneering,
eccentric, notorious, and downright criminal.
In 'national' scope the pragmatic approach of the original DNB has been retained. The Oxford DNB covers people born in the British Isles; it also includes inhabitants of the USA and Commonwealth countries before independence, many British-born people whose main impact was made overseas, and many who were born elsewhere but whose impact within the United Kingdom was substantial.
Everyone included in the old dictionary is in the Oxford DNB but all their biographies have been revised or completely rewritten to reflect modern scholarship. A further 13,500 lives of new subjects broadens the coverage of previously neglected areas in all periods. These include many articles on women and twentieth-century subjects as well as previously under-represented fields such as business and science. Over 1800 people who died between 1991 and 2000 have also been included for
the first time. In order to ensure a well-balanced view of a subject we do not include any biographies of people that are still living.
Owing to its accessible and authoritative coverage, the Oxford DNB will appeal to a wide readership: from scholarly researchers to university, college, and school students, professional writers to general readers of biography, local and family historians to librarians, archivists, and curators. It is the essential biographical and historical resource for all major libraries.
Like the Oxford English Dictionary the project springs from a remarkable partnership between publisher and scholars. The Oxford DNB is constituted as a research and publishing project of the University of Oxford, with research funding from the British Academy, and all other funding and resources from Oxford University Press. The editor is Professor Brian Harrison (Professor of Modern British History, University of Oxford) who succeeded the founding editor, the late Professor
H. C. G. Matthew FBA, in January 2000. Over 30 in-house research scholars, 12 external consultant editors and 400 associate editors made recommendations about new subjects and specialist authors, and reviewed completed work for academic quality. The large community of people contributing to the Oxford DNB is spread
around the world and made up of 10,000 academic and non-academic authors.
The largest selection of national portraiture ever published
The Oxford DNB contains 10,000 portrait illustrations, each shown next to the relevant biography. This special project was completed in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery in London. Drawing on the National Portrait Gallery's own collections and a wide range of other sources, a specialist research team has assembled the largest selection of national portraiture ever published. Images chosen for reproduction range from paintings, drawings, and sculpture to photographs,
medals, and death masks.