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The editor

There have been four editors of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography since 1992: founding editor Colin Matthew, Brian Harrison, Lawrence Goldman (2004-2014), and the current editor, David Cannadine.


Sir David Cannadine, 2014-



Sir David Cannadine FBA was appointed the ODNB’s General Editor in October 2014, a post he holds in conjunction with the Dodge Professorship of History at Princeton University. He is a specialist in the political, social, and cultural history of modern Britain and its empire, and the study of history over time.

David is the author of 14 books (and editor of a further 14 volumes) including The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy (1990), Ornamentalism: how the British saw their Empire (2001), Making History Now and Then (2008), and The Undivided Past: Humanity Beyond our Differences (2013). He has previously taught at the universities of Cambridge, Columbia, and London.

A former chairman of the Trustees of the National Portrait Gallery, London, David was knighted for services to scholarship in 2009. As Editor of the Oxford DNB he is a Visiting Professor in the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford, and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford.



An introduction to David on becoming Editor, via the OUP Blog


Welcome video: plans for the future and two favourite biographies



Lawrence Goldman, 2004–2014



Dr Lawrence Goldman was editor of the ODNB between 2004 and September 2014, a post he held in conjunction with a tutorial fellowship in modern history at St Peter's College, Oxford. In 2014 he was appointed Director of the Institute of Historical Research, University of London.

Lawrence's books include Dons and Workers: Oxford and Adult Education since 1850 (OUP, 1995), Science, Reform, and Politics in Victorian Britain: the Social Science Association, 1857–1886 (CUP, 2002), and (as co-editor) The Political Culture of Victorian Britain (OUP, 2006), a volume of essays in memory of Colin Matthew, first editor of the Oxford DNB. In 2013 he published a biography of the political theorist and historian, R.H. Tawney, The Life of R. H. Tawney: Socialism and History.





Brian Harrison, 2000–2004



Professor Brian Harrison took up the editorship of the Oxford DNB in January 2000 and oversaw the project to publication in September 2004. A fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, he taught history and politics at Oxford University for thirty-three years.

Brian's numerous publications include Drink and the Victorians (1971), The Transformation of British Politics (1996), and (as editor) the final volume (1914–1970) in the History of the University of Oxford. His most recent publications are the two final volumes for the 'New Oxford History of England', Seeking a Role. The United Kingdom, 1951-1970 (2009) and Finding a Role? The United Kingdom, 1970-1990 (2010).

After the publication of the Oxford DNB, Brian was awarded a knighthood for services to scholarship, and made a fellow of the British Academy.




Colin Matthew—founding editor, 1992–1999


Professor Colin Matthew was the founding editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and a fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford. He died suddenly on 29 October 1999, at the age of fifty-eight. He was a much-loved man, a fine scholar, and an inspiring leader.

Colin Matthew was born in Inverness and educated in Edinburgh, Yorkshire, and Oxford. He began his teaching career in Uganda and Tanzania before returning to Oxford. Colin was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the British Academy (of which he was vice-president), a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, and a curator of the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Colin's major biography Gladstone, 1809-1898 was the culmination of his work on the 'Grand Old Man' of Victorian politics, for which he was awarded the 1995 Wolfson prize for history; he also completed the landmark fourteen-volume edition of The Gladstone Diaries (1968-1994). After his initial research on The Liberal Imperialists: the Ideas and Politics of a Post-Gladstonian Élite (1973) Colin wrote widely on aspects of nineteenth- and twentieth-century history, in articles and contributions to collective works such as the Oxford Illustrated History of Britain and the Short Oxford History of the British Isles.

Colin was editor of the Oxford DNB from the start of the project in 1992. He laid out the detailed intellectual agenda for the new dictionary, and led the project team in Oxford and a network of 10,000 advisers and contributors worldwide. Colin described his approach to making the dictionary in his 1995 Leslie Stephen lecture, reproduced here by kind permission of Cambridge University Press.


Colin's biography in the Oxford DNB


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