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What's new in the Oxford DNB?

Here you'll find details of the dictionary's latest update (May 2015)—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: May 2015

Our May 2015 online update adds new biographies of 105 people active between the 14th and early 21st century. Full list of new lives.


  • A century of British cinema: actors Harry H. Corbett (1925-1982) and Oliver Reed (1938-1999); producer Carl Foreman (1914-1984), and filmmakers Alan Clarke (1935-1990) and Geoffrey Malins (1886-1940), maker of The Battle of the Somme, screened in 1916.

  • Jewish lives: Judith Montefiore (1784-1862), travel writer and author of the first Jewish cookery book in English; David Kessler (1906-1999), managing director of the Jewish Chronicle; and Boris Bennett (1900-1995), East End wedding photographer whose camera is on display at the Jewish Museum, London.

  • Other lives: Fanny Talbot (1824-1917), giver of the first land to the National Trust, in 1895; Stephen Joseph (1921-1967), producer and developer of ‘theatre in the round’; record producer Dick Rowe (1921-1986) who failed to sign the Beatles; and Samuel Waring (1869-1940), head of the decorative arts retailers, Waring & Gillow.

  • New portraits: the May update adds portraits to 24 existing biographies, including those for Clementine Churchill, Isaac Rosenberg, and Radclyffe Hall.

Editor's Introduction    :    Highlights from the new update    :    May 2015 update




September 2015

  • 17 September: our new update adds biographies of 112 men and women active between 13th and 21st century. Special focus on those engaged in war, in 1915.
  • You can now listen to a selection of ODNB biographies on SoundCloud.
  • Lives of the Day: September's lives include the St Trinian’s cartoonist Ronald Searle (‘Back to School’ on 4th), the composer Henry Purcell (10th), and the conductor Henry Wood (for Last Night of the Proms on 12th); there’s also the eighteenth-century writer and designer, Horace Walpole (24th), and Edwardian nature writer, Edith Holden (26th). 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 or as an iTunes podcast: this month, William Weston, the first Englishman to journey to North America, and the sculptor Barbara Hepworth—now the subject of a Tate Britain exhibition.
  • Daily lives, regular podcast episodes, and other historical news is also available via Follow odnb on Twitter
  • More routes to free sample content.

August 2015

  • You can now listen to a selection of ODNB biographies on SoundCloud.
  • We're making final checks to a new Oxford DNB update: 115 new biographies covering 700 years of the British past. Published in mid-September.
  • Who created the Proms? Listen to the life of Robert Newman (1858-1926) in the ODNB's biography podcast.
  • Lives of the Day: August's lives include the actor Oliver Reed (4th), authors Alfred, Lord Tennyson (6th) and Radclyffe Hall (12th), the social scientist Michael Young (9th), master horologist George Daniels (19th), and the comedian Harry Worth – he of the ever-popular ‘levitating window pane’ joke (23rd). Find out who's currently in the Lives of the week gallery, and sign up for the life of the day.
  • Oxford DNB podcasts: new biographies, and some old favourites, as downloads and podcasts: this month, Lady Godiva and the Spitalfields museum creator, Dennis Severs.
  • Daily lives, regular podcast episodes, and other historical news is also available via Follow odnb on Twitter
  • More routes to free sample content.

July 2015

  • Winners announced: recipients of the Oxford DNB research bursaries for 2015-16.
  • Video: Fanny Talbot (1824-1917) and the origins of the National Trust. More
  • Lives of the Day: July’s lives include the political leaders Thomas Jefferson (for 4th July) and Julius Caesar (13 Quinctilis), and the musicians George Butterworth (12th) and Amy Winehouse (26th). In between there’s John Wesley (3rd), Dorothy Wadham, founder of the Oxford college (19th), and the tenor Robert Tear for the first night of the 2015 Proms (17th). Find out who's currently in the Lives of the week gallery, and sign up for the life of the day.
  • Oxford DNB podcasts: new biographies, and some old favourites, as downloads and podcasts: this month, Lake District diarist, Dorothy Wordsworth, and the children's author A.A. Milne.
  • 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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Prizes and awards

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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