Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

The Library has recently acquired the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, a unique collection of concise and authoritative essays on more than 56,000 men and women who shaped British life between the 4th century and the year 2004. These include men and women of historical interest from all walks of life such as artists, scientists, doctors, business people, military leaderss and even eccentrics and criminals.

For those of you who do not like reading screens, we also have the 60 volume printed edition in the Reference Section shelved at  R 920.042.  There is a pleasure in consulting a beautifully produced book but you will find that the electronic version also has a great deal to offer. Each biographical essay has hypertext links to other resources in the database so if you are consulting the entry on Isambard Kingdom Brunel you can also access an essay on his association with the engineers of the nineteenth century which links to their biographies; a bibliography from the Royal Historical Society and the portraits of the great engineer  from the collections of the National Portrait Gallery.

There are over 200 essays on well known historical groups that also make connections between individuals e.g. the British Antarctic Survey,  the  Founders of the National Trust and Mass Observation, the organization founded in 1937 to document peoples’ lives.

If you want to pursue your research further you can link to repositories of archives about the subjects. For example the entry on the playwright Aphra Behn has hypertext links to the sources in the British Library where further material may be found.

 The ODNB  publishes an online monthly magazine ; the current issue has a number of topical features including an item on five Wimbledon Champions and Women’s Social and Political Union, the organisation which encouraged the women’s suffrage movement to adopt a more militant stance.

For those of you who missed the presence of  the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland teams in the Euro 2008 football championship and would like to remember past glories, there is a webpage for “Britains’ finest team”

As well as being a research tool for academic historians the ODNB has its lighter side: the themes have the most online hits include include musical chart toppers and British Oscar winners. This resource is infinitely flexible: it can used for both scholarly and leisure purposes for helping children with their historical researches.

 

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