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What's new in the Oxford DNB?

Here you'll find details of the dictionary's latest update (January 2016)—plus news of monthly features, our bi-weekly biography podcast, and topical Lives of the Day.


The Oxford DNB online is updated every January, May, and September with new biographies and reference articles. Previous updates


You may also be interested in Taking a tour of the online edition.




Latest online update: January 2016

Our January 2016 online update adds new biographies of 222 people who shaped modern Britain and who died in the year 2012. Full list of new lives.


  • Journalism and politics: historian Eric Hobsbawm, war correspondent Marie Colvin, newspaper editor William Rees-Mogg, and gay rights activist Allan Horsfall.

  • Lives in science: the astronomers Bernard Lovell and Patrick Moore, the Nobel laureate and physiologist Andrew Huxley, and the biophysicist Louise Johnson.

  • Entertainment and popular culture: hairdresser Vidal Sassoon, animator and puppeteer Gerry Anderson, actor Clive Dunn, and Jim Marshall, inventor of the Marshall amp.

  • Other lives: novelists Nina Bawden and Barry Unsworth; Welsh rugby union player, Mervyn Davies; disability campaigner and politician Jack Ashley, and Eric Lomax, Japanese prisoner of war and author of The Railway Man.

Editor's Introduction    :    Highlights from the new update    :    January 2016 update




April 2016

  • Oxford DNB Research Bursaries, 2016: we’re offering 3 research bursaries to work with us on a scholarly project. One award is offered jointly with the Oxford Centre for Life Writing at Wolfson College, Oxford. More.
  • 400 years of Shakespearean lives: Oxford DNB and Shakespeare scholarship.
  • Lives of the Day: April anniversaries include the bicentenary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë (21st) and the centenary of the birth of Yehudi Menuhin (22nd). Shakespeare’s death is marked on 23rd, while three biographies (including those of Constance Markievicz and W.B. Yeats) mark the centenary of the Easter Rising from 24th April. Find out who's currently in the Lives of the week gallery, and sign up for the life of the day.
  • Oxford DNB's biography podcast: selected biographies to download as an iTunes podcast or listen to via Soundcloud: this month, we’ve the historian Eric Hobsbawm and the 18th-century landscape gardener, Capability Brown.
  • Daily lives, regular podcast episodes, and other historical news is also available via Follow odnb on Twitter
  • More routes to free sample content.

March 2016

  • Let the people speak! We’ve added 750 links from Oxford DNB biographies to archive voice recordings in the British Library and BBC. An editor explains.
  • ODNB's Sounds Project: selected highlights and all 750 links.
  • Constance Smith (1878-1938): the woman behind Mothering Sunday. Listen to her life.
  • Lives of the Day: March's lives include D.H. Lawrence (4th), the sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi (7th), Jim Marshall, inventor of the ‘Marshall amp’ and so dubbed the ‘king of loud’ (17th), and the two-time Labour prime minister, Harold Wilson, the centenary of whose birth is marked on 11th March. Find out who's currently in the Lives of the week gallery, and sign up for the life of the day.
  • Oxford DNB's biography podcast: selected biographies to download as an iTunes podcast or listen to via Soundcloud. This month we’ve the pioneering woman physician, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, and Cuthbert Ottaway, first captain of the England football team.
  • Daily lives, regular podcast episodes, and other historical news is also available via Follow odnb on Twitter
  • More routes to free sample content.

February 2016

  • Our new update adds biographies of 222 men and women who died in the year 2012. Highlights.
  • Video: ODNB editor David Cannadine on the life and work of historian Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012).
  • There are now 80 biographies and talks available on the ODNB's Soundcloud page.
  • Lives of the Day: February's lives include the Tudor humanist, Thomas More (6th), and Queen Mary I (18th) on the 500th anniversary of her birth. Featured lives from our latest update include the actor Clive Dunn—Corporal Jones in the original Dad’s Army (11th)—and the astronomer Bernard Lovell (15th) who was responsible for the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank. 28th February also marks the centenary of the death of novelist Henry James. Find out who's currently in the Lives of the week gallery, and sign up for the life of the day.
  • Oxford DNB's biography podcast: selected biographies to download as an iTunes podcast or listen to via Soundcloud. This month we have: filmmaker Geoffrey Malins, whose documentary on the Somme was watched by 20 million Britons in 1916, and the German-born author W.G. Sebald, best known for works including The Rings of Saturn and Austerlitz.
  • Daily lives, regular podcast episodes, and other historical news is also available via Follow odnb on Twitter
  • More routes to free sample content.

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Reviews and comments

  • ‘I play a little game thinking: “I bet they haven’t got him or her,” and truly they usually have … You can’t go wrong with the DNB: there’s a story on every page’
  • Jeremy Paxman, 1 January 2012


  • ‘I have long thought that if more people sold the family car and bought the ODNB, the nation would not only be better informed but much happier too. Actually, there's no need to go the whole hog. Public libraries provide free online access in the privacy of your own laptop.
  • Christopher Howse, Daily Telegraph, 12 April 2010


  • 14 November 2009: the ODNB is one of the Times’s 100 ‘best books’ published between 2000 and 2010.


  • 30 October 2009: the ODNB features in the Daily Telegraph’s ‘defining cultural moments of the noughties’


  • In praise of ... the Dictionary of National Biography
    ‘The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography is one of the last great products of the age of print, now giving way with some grace to the digital era … Access, via library subscriptions, is free for almost anyone who wants it, on a home computer. The DNB team even email out a life of the day, an erudite way to clutter your inbox.’
  • The Guardian, Leader page, 8 January 2007


  • 'The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has refreshed and fortified our sense of what can still be meant by the collective endeavour of "scholarship"'.
  • Stefan Collini, London Review of Books, 20 Jan 2005

    Read Stefan Collini's LRB review.

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2007: Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education
2005: Best user experience: International Information Industry Awards
2005: Best book, scholarly, academic, and reference category: British Book Design and Production Awards
2005: Besterman/McColvin Medal for the outstanding electronic reference work of the year: Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals
2005: Dartmouth Medal for the creation of a reference work of outstanding quality and significance: American Library Association
2005: Special citation: National Book Critics Circle Awards
2005: Trustees' Award for the promotion of history: Longman-History Today Awards

More about the Oxford DNB

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