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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




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.

January 2016

  • New update adds biographies of 222 men and women who died in the year 2012. Highlights.
  • Full list of new lives and an introduction to the update.
  • New video: ODNB editor David Cannadine and ODNB author Martin Jacques discuss the life and work of historian Eric Hobsbawm (1917-2012).
  • Listen to the life of hairdresser, Vidal Sassoon (1928-2012).
  • Lives of the Day: January's lives include the Conservative politician Airey Neave on the centenary of his birth (23rd) and several biographies added to the ODNB in our latest update—among them animator Gerry Anderson, creator of Thunderbirds (7th), journalist Marie Colvin (8th), and the newspaper editor, William Rees-Mogg (21st). In between there’s the seventeenth-century political theorist James Harrington (3rd), King Richard II (9th), and the novelist Virginia Woolf (25th). 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, hairdresser and businessman, Vidal Sassoon, and Agnes Cowper, seventeenth-century Southwalk cap-maker.
  • Daily lives, regular podcast episodes, and other historical news is also available via Follow odnb on Twitter
  • More routes to free sample content.

December 2015

  • A video preview of what's coming up in January: 230 men and women who died in 2012
  • Listen to the life of Ada Lovelace, born 10th December 1815.
  • Remembering Philip Larkin, 30 years after his death.
  • Lives of the Day: December's lives include the bicentenary of the computer pioneer Ada Lovelace (10th) and the centenary of the birth of the opera singer Elizabeth Schwarzkopf (9th). There’s also the eighteenth-century governor-general of India, Warren Hastings (6th), St Anselm (13th), Aphra Behn (14th), and the Stuart gentlewoman, Venetia Digby (19th). 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, the American ‘Founding Fathers’, and novelist Penelope Fitzgerald.
  • 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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2005: Special citation: National Book Critics Circle Awards
2005: Trustees' Award for the promotion of history: Longman-History Today Awards

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