Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Series: Our favourite State Library eresources.

People often ask us what our most loved eresources are. Admittedly we all have a favourite, or two, or three. It’s hard to pick as there are so many wonderful State Library eresources available. In this series our Librarians and Library Technicians share with you their most favourite eresources and how they’ve been used to solve research queries.

Next in the series we look at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB). This is a big favourite of Library Technician Katy Roberts, who used the database to discover that she shares a date of birth with Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

So why is Oxford Dictionary of National Biography so fabulous?

Oxford DNB provides full, accurate, concise and readable article about people from all walks of life and 2,400 years of history.

Best of all, you can access Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online with your free State Library membership.

Image of Oxford Dictionary of National Biography database home page.

What is Oxford Dictionary of National Biography?

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB) is a record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture, from the Roman period to the present day. It covers everyone from kings and queens to pearly kings. It is an authoritative database which is overseen by academic editors at Oxford University, UK, and is updated throughout the year.

Oxford DNB contains over 60,000 biographies, 11,000 portraits, 60,000 articles about the lives of people who influenced Britain – the influential, the famous and the infamous. Oxford DNB’s origins include the Dictionary of National Biography which dates back to 1885. It does not include living subjects, all those included are deceased prior to 2016.

Who uses Oxford DNB?

Oxford DNB is used by researchers, students, lecturers and anyone interested in people from history.

It can be searched using the Search Article Title field, or by Occupations or Religious Affiliation. 

  • Occupations are diverse, covering everything from agriculture, armed forces and intelligence services, to travel and exploration and writing and publishing. Medicine, health, music, sports, games, and pastimes are on their way as options too.
  • Religious affiliation includes Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

Current information can be quickly accessed under What’s New, Featured, Podcasts and Latest Tweets. 

Why search Oxford DNB and not just Google someone?

Biographical articles on Oxford DNB include sources, archives, likenesses and often wealth at death. Some articles are so comprehensive that they contain a Contents sidebar. Background information on social and political conditions is included in each article, helping to provide a thorough understanding of the person’s life.

Curated collections include biographies by region or theme, as well as interactive maps and photographic galleries. Examples of themes include First World War lives, using maps to explore the history of a region, or looking at the greatest sports teams. 

Oxford DNB is integrated with social media options, making it easy to share content across channels. Articles can easily be saved, shared, converted to PDF, cited or emailed.

Join now, start searching Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and discover why it’s such a useful database.

Look out for the next blog in this series #FavouriteEresources


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