The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who’ve shaped all walks of British life—from the Romans to the 21st century. Published online, and extended three times a year, the Oxford DNB includes more than 60,000 life stories.
The Oxford DNB includes more than 800 men and women with connections to Bedfordshire from John Bunyan (1628-88), author of Pilgrim’s Progress, and brewer Samuel Whitbread (1720-96) to Mary Tealby, founder of Battersea Dogs’ Home in 1860, and the Olympic athlete Harold Abrahams (1899-1978). More specifically you can focus in on places to find 45 people with links to Leighton Buzzard, including Mary Norton, and more than 120 with ties to Dunstable, including Katherine of Aragon.
You’ll find many sons and daughters of Luton, including the medieval churchman, Simon of Luton, and the novelist Arthur Hailey, author of blockbuster novels such as Hotel and Airport. From Bedford there’s the polar explorer Apsley Cherry-Garrard and, of course, comedian Ronnie Barker.
You can also search across the county for subjects with links to Bedfordshire—including novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett and Christopher Cockerell, inventor of the hovercraft—alongside more than 100 famous people buried in the county’s churches.
Across the Oxford DNB’s 65 million words, you’ll also find nearly 50 references to the R101 and Cardington, 2 to Luton Town FC, and many more to Woburn, including Ian Russell, the colourful duke of Bedford, who turned the park into a famous visitor attraction.
It’s easy to search by place in the Oxford DNB as the following section explains.
The Oxford DNB includes the life stories of more than 60,000 men and women. Online you can search for where they were born, baptized, lived, died or were buried, by date range or location.
- The advanced search ‘life event’ feature can be used to find people near you—be they men and women baptised in Edinburgh (189), those born in Whitby (28), or those buried in Exeter (133). Used in this way the ODNB is an excellent resource for school projects or family history.
- Text searching across the Oxford DNB’s 68 million words, you can also make links between people and places: for example, we’ve 102 references to “Clapham Common”, 27 to the “River Trent”, and 51 to “Snowdonia”.
Listen to a life
Every two weeks the Oxford DNB releases a biography podcast. There are more than 250 episodes to choose from, including John Lennon, Madame Tussaud, Morecambe and Wise, Roald Dahl, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
Browse the episodes by list or by place.