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Local lives in the Oxford DNB

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is the national record of men and women who’ve shaped British life from the Romans to the 21st century. Naturally, it includes all of the greatest figures from the past. But it also contains thousands of men and women—with close ties to particular counties, towns, and villages—whose regional importance means they now appear in the national biography.

1. Getting started: our selection

Try these interactive maps which highlight people in the ODNB remembered for their contribution to, or links with, the history of a particular place.

Local History in the Oxford DNB Gardeners in the Oxford DNB Brewers and distillers of the British Isles

From left to right, these maps chart ‘local heroes’, famous gardeners, and brewers of Britain—Mousehole to Orkney, Dover to Enniskillen.

Oxford DNB biography podcast The sea

A selection of ODNB biographies are also available as audio recordings. The map on the left includes local heroes—including Friar Tuck, Morecambe and Wise, and Amy Johnson—who’ve featured in our twice-monthly podcast which now offers 200 free episodes. And on the right we remember individuals who lived and worked on or off the coast of this island nation.

Londoners: we’ve biographies of 7500 native Londoners For a very small sample try our clickable London maps: by borough, or Westminster & the City.

Recent additions include Henry Croft, founder of the pearly king tradition; the Brixton activist Olive Morris, and Pasqua Rosee, who opened London’s first coffee house (in 1656).

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2. Bespoke public library pages

Use the links in the left-hand panel (above) to see people by city and county from across the United Kingdom: Aberdeenshire to East Yorkshire.

Librarians use these pages to promote ODNB to their users, showing them how to find people by place.

If you’d like one for your library, let us know.

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3. Finding people near you

The Oxford DNB includes the life stories of more than 59,000 men and women. Online you can search for where they were born, baptized, lived, died or were buried, searching by county, town, village, church, and street.

Search tips Here are some tips for how to find people near you—be they one-time residents of Princes Street, Edinburgh (45), sons and daughters of Whitby (24), or those buried in Exeter (112)—and how this can be used for school projects or family history.
Text searching across the ODNB’s 68 million words, you can also make links between people and places: for example, we’ve 94 references to Clapham Common, 23 to the River Trent, and 44 to Snowdonia.

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4. Scotland and Wales

Wales and the Welsh Scots and Scotland

For readers interested in Scottish and Welsh history, there’s more on regional searching of the ODNB via these two special guides (searches on these pages require subscriber access, available via UK public libraries).

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5. Gangs, gatherings, and groups

As well as 59,000 people, the ODNB includes essays on well-known historical clubs and networks in which individuals came together to act collaboratively. There are now over 300 groups essays in ODNB Themes (requires subscriber access), with more to follow. Many groups also have strong regional ties, including:

  • Birmingham’s Lunar Society
  • the Dymock poets
  • Hackney Phalanx
  • Oxford’s Inklings
  • the Putney debaters
  • and the Spalding Gentleman’s Society
Full list of groups in Themes (access required)
Bluestocking circle

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> Sign up for a free Life of the Day or biography podcast

> Read the Oxford DNB, free and at home, using your library's subscription

> More about the Oxford DNB

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