Letter from the Editor

David Cannadine

Welcome to the online Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB), first published in September 2004, and now updated twelve times a year to include corrections and new information as well as new lives. The dictionary currently provides the biographies of some 65,000 men and women who have shaped the British past, contained in more than 62,000 articles, more than 12,000 of them accompanied by a likeness of the subject – researched in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery.

Entries in the dictionary are authored – and authoritative. They cover an astonishing range – from Pytheas, the ancient Greek explorer who was the first to describe Britain, to the astrophysicists of the very recent past (and even one astronaut, Piers Sellers), from monks to musicians, and from politicians to poets. The entries also cover a wide geographical range – the whole of the British Isles before the independence of Ireland; people born in the British Isles who made their mark elsewhere; people born elsewhere who made their mark in the British Isles; and notable figures who were colonial ‘subjects’ of the British crown, whether in eighteenth-century America or twentieth-century India.

New entries are selected, commissioned, and written after advice has been taken from extensive networks of advisers, and the dictionary relies very much on – and is enormously indebted to – the many hundreds of advisers as well as the many thousands of contributors who have made the dictionary what it is.

You can of course search for a particular individual, in the ‘search article title’ box. But the search facilities (see ‘advanced search’ or ‘modify your search’) enable you to search the dictionary’s vast resources – by date, occupation, education, geographical location, religion, those with a portrait, in numerous other ways, and in any combination.

The dictionary also includes hundreds of helpful reference lists, feature essays, and group entries: these again can be found through the ‘modify your search’ or ‘advanced search’ buttons.

I hope you enjoy exploring the Oxford DNB.

We have a free selection of entries from the most recent updates available here.

-- David Cannadine

General Editor, Oxford DNB