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Using the online edition

59,972 lives ... 72 million words ... 11,440 illustrations ... all on your desktop

  • On this page, read about the online edition and see some screenshots.

Fast desktop access to

  • The complete text of the Oxford DNB: 59,972 lives in 72 million words, with 11,440 portrait illustrations.
  • The complete text of the thirty-three volumes of the original DNB and all its supplements.
  • Themes section of companion reference material—reference lists and articles on groups and successions (kings and queens, prime ministers, Nobel prize winners ... ).
  • Online updates three times a year, providing new biographies, themes for reference, illustrations, corrections and additions to articles already published, and improved website features.

A superb range of search options

  • Quick search for a biography from every page. Simple to use but clever under the covers, Quick search copes with pseudonyms, performing names, nicknames, aristocratic titles, initials, incomplete names, changes of name—and strips out the noise of irrelevant results.
Click here for a screenshot > Click here for a screenshot
  • Full text search through all 70 million words. But, with a twist: you can choose what kind of word you are looking for, by restricting your search to place names, personal names, organization names, quotations, book titles ...
Click here for a screenshot > Click here for a screenshot
  • Too many results? After all, we have 69 people called John Smith! Use the refine panel to choose only the people who lived at a particular time, in a particular place, or who were active in a particular sphere—the arts, say, or politics.
  • When you don't know their names. Use the Oxford DNB to see the past in new ways. Find the people who shared a common date, activity, or claim to fame. Advanced search lets you find people by date, field of interest, places with which they were connected, and more ... . So you can find all the people in the dictionary who were:
    • Killed at the battle of Agincourt
    • Painted by Holbein
    • Shoemakers
    • Born in Cornwall before 1600
    • Neighbours in Edinburgh's Princes Street
    • Nineteenth-century women explorers
    • Buried in Highgate cemetery
    • Artists educated at the Slade in the twentieth century
    • Musicians who lived in New York
click here to see a screenshot > Click here for screenshot
  • Plus searching for articles by their authors; fully searchable bibliographies, iconographies, and archive records.


We've not forgotten the serendipitous pleasures of browsing.

  • Browse lives alphabetically, or chronologically.
  • Our Get a Life feature gives you a biography completely at random; and
  • Today's birthdays always throws up some familiar and unfamiliar names.
Click on the link below for screenshot pop-up> Click here for a screenshot


Our Themes section is a developing reference companion for British history. And because every theme links through to the relevant Oxford DNB biographies, it's also a guided introduction to the dictionary.

Reading an article

The biography pages have been designed for ease of reading, with a clear, uncluttered design, separate reference sections, and links for navigation through longer articles (see sample article—Christina Rossetti).

But if reading on screen is inconvenient, you can either email the article home or print out the print-friendly version (see sample print-friendly version).

The shifting web

Many scholars distrust the fluidity of online resources. Where a website is improved over time (and additions and corrections to the Oxford DNB are already being made in our updates), how can one be sure that what one recommends today is what one read yesterday?

  • Every Oxford DNB article has detailed citation information (including MLA and Chicago formats), which shows when it was first published, and when it was last changed (see sample citation).
  • Wherever an article has been changed, all previous versions, each with details of its publication, remain available.

One biography leads to ...

  • Selective internal cross-referencing makes it possible to move to articles of related interest with ease. Navigation features make it as easy to backtrack.
  • Growing lists of external deep links to carefully selected web sites (including the National Archives, Royal Historical Society Bibliographies) open up widening research possibilities.
  • DOIs for every life simplify external linking.
  • Sources sections lead to further reading; and with Open URL, can link directly into your library's catalogue and online holdings.

Twenty-four hour access

  • Unlimited simultaneous user licences—as well as concurrent user licences—are available.
  • Remote library card access free of charge.
  • ATHENS SSO authenticated.

High quality subscriber services

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> Take the tour
> Sample articles: Lives of the Week
> Free biographies by email: sign up for Life of the Day

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