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 ODNB includes more than 60,000 life stories.
Public libraries in Plymouth subscribe to the Oxford DNB, which means you can look for people either in the library or from home (or anywhere, anytime) using your library membership number as a personal log-in.
You can gain access via Plymouth libraries’ Reference Online or the Oxford DNB online, adding your number.
With access Plymouth, Britain, and indeed the world, is your online oyster.
1. Plymouth lives
The Oxford DNB includes more than 1,400 men and women with connections to Plymouth—from the 16th-century sea captain, Sir John Hawkins, to Britain’s first woman MP Nancy Astor, and the pantomime artist Jack Tripp (1922-2005).
In between you’ll find many sons and daughters of the city, including the match manufacturer Wilberforce Bryant (1837-1906) and the radio performer Derek McCulloch (1897-1967), better known as Uncle Mac.
You can also search within Plymouth, allowing you to find nearly 200 people born in or near the city, and historical residents including William Cookworthy.
Across the ODNB’s 70 million words, you’ll also find more than 1,600 references to Plymouth, 23 to Eddystone, 51 to the Tamar, and 16 to the Golden Hind.
2. Finding people near you
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”.
3. Topical and local history
Try a map—from British brewers, to gardeners and seafarers
Listen to a life
Every two weeks the ODNB 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.
> Read the Oxford DNB, free and at home, using your library's subscription
> More about the Oxford DNB