The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB) has tens of thousands of biographies about men and women who’ve shaped British history, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century. Enjoy a sample of our content below, freely available on our open shelves.

If you like what you see, you can find out how to access the complete Oxford DNB, which includes information on accessing through UK public libraries.

For information about the Oxford DNB, including its history and how often it’s updated, please visit our About page.

For answers to some common questions about the site visit our Frequently Asked Questions page or read our detailed help page.


Are you interested in the full scope of biographies by region or theme? Read our freely available content on the topics listed below for a sample of the Oxford DNB’s comprehensive national record.

Local Lives

The Oxford DNB includes all of the greatest figures from the past, including thousands of men and women of regional importance. Explore people by city and county from across the United Kingdom.

Maps and galleries

We’ve also biographies by place or topic —for students, teachers, and local and family historians.



Listen to a Life: the ODNB podcast

We've recorded over 250 life stories from the Oxford DNB. You can download an individual life, or subscribe or subscribe to our fortnightly biography podcast. Listen to a life

Let the People Speak

As part of the January 2016 update we added links from 750 Oxford DNB biographies to archive sound recordings held by the British Library and the BBC.
Listen to historical highlights >

If you like listening to history, subscribe to our fortnightly podcast, or listen to individual lives.