Biographical information you can cite
18 May 2020
The most reliable source of high quality biographies?
Apart from a love of music, you might not think that Bowie, Bolan and Hendrix have much in common with Handel, Holst and Britten. Nor might you imagine they share something with the politicians Churchill, Thatcher and Bevan, or the scientists Darwin, Franklin and Lovelace. What links them all is that they have made their way into ARU’s subscription to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), the national record of all those men and women who have helped shape British history, culture and progress.
To date there are 72 million words describing more than 60,000 individuals from the past 2,500 years. They were not all British, nor did they necessarily take British citizenship, but they did all directly contribute something significant during their time in these isles. What’s more, none of these individuals are with us any longer, meaning that the biographies produced can give the fullest and most rounded of reflections on their whole life story.
Each biography is specially commissioned from a leading expert, often someone who has already written widely and authoritatively on that individual. As well as giving a detailed and rounded description and evaluation of the person’s life and legacy, they also provide invaluable information on where archives can be found for further research, alongside a selection of recommended secondary sources, a range of likenesses and further external sources. All of these features, along with the knowledge that it’s been written by an expert, are what set apart the ODNB from biographies you might find elsewhere online, such as in Wikipedia. Furthermore, as a respected source, the ODNB can be cited in your assignments.