Oxford Dictionary of National Biography   Connect to Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Also known as: Oxford DNB
Access: Internet-delivered database. There are three ways to connect:
  1. from a public computer in the University of Delaware Library
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  3. from an off-campus connection (University of Delaware ID required)

An illustrated collection of 50,000 biographies of people who shaped the history of the British Isles and beyond. The biographies—of artists, scientists, writers, industrialists, performers, explorers, criminals, and eccentrics as well as politicians, church leaders, and soldiers, mariners, doctors, and lawyers—are written by experts and provide up-to-date scholarship but are also concise and readable. There are 50,113 biographical articles in the Oxford DNB, and 9294 cross-reference entries. Within the biographical articles the dictionary includes a total of 54,922 lives: approximately 5000 of these are included as sub-sections within larger articles. There are no entries for living persons.

This online edition of the Dictionary of National Biography, published simultaneously with a 60-volume print edition, is a total revision of the DNB, completed in 1900. The first edition contained over 29,000 lives, and rapidly became a national institution—an indispensable reference work for anyone interested in the histories and cultures of the British Isles. Supplements published at intervals through the twentieth century added lives of subjects who had died up to 1990. Altogether the DNB and its supplements included 38,607 lives in 33 million words. The Oxford DNB is a new dictionary which incorporates and replaces the old, and expands it substantially for a new readership. None of the people included in the original dictionary have been dropped: each person included in the DNB also has an entry in the Oxford DNB. However, all of the original articles have been either completely rewritten or revised. Over 70% of the articles in the DNB have been rewritten and the remainder revised.

The coverage is mainly British, but “British” is not narrowly defined. The long history of the British Isles alone is complicated enough to make narrow definitions of nationality very difficult; the history of British connections overseas makes them all but useless. The Oxford DNB takes an inclusive approach to the “national” in its title, as the editors did with the first DNB. It covers those who were born and lived in the British Isles, including Ireland; people born there who made their mark in former colonies and in Europe; those who lived in the former colonies when involved directly with British rule; and some people born abroad who lived in or left significant records of the British Isles.

Coverage: 4th century B.C.E. to 2000
Updated: three times each year (starting in January 2005)
Links: There are links to corresponding articles in the American National Biography.
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Related Resources: Biographical Information
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Producer: Oxford University Press

This page is maintained by Erin Daix, Collection Development Department.

Last modified: 05/16/14