Women entrepreneurs and Bronze Age man now added to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB)

The latest update to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography—published on Thursday 26 May 2016—adds biographies of 93 men and women active over 4000 years of British history.

DNB_stamp_block logoMay’s update provides a special focus on eighteenth and nineteenth-century women entrepreneurs, inventors, and industrialists. New additions include the Bristol inventor, Sarah Guppy (1770-1852), whose many patents include designs for a suspension bridge crossing the River Avon—years before Telford and Brunel. Sarah Guppy’s inclusion in the Oxford DNB has featured in articles for The Times and Daily Telegraph and on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme (30 May).

Early modern religious biographies include Anne Hooper (d. 1555), one of the earliest wives of a bishop in the post-Reformation period. Hooper’s letters chart a period of intense religious and personal uncertainty.

Contributions from members of the Oxford History Faculty include Felicity Heal on the Tudor diarist Richard Stonley (1520/21-1600), the first person known to have purchased a work by William Shakespeare (in 1593), and William Whyte on the architect, Daniel Robertson (c.1770–1849), who designed the Oxford University Press building in Jericho.

The earliest new addition is Racton Man (fl. c.2200 BP), the skeleton of a Bronze Age warrior at The Novium Museum, Chichester, whose ‘biography’—based on forensic science—can now be written. May’s update also includes two pioneers of tattooing: George Burchett (1872-1953) and Sutherland Macdonald (1860-1942). Macdonald coined the term ‘tattooist’ (‘tattoo’ + ‘artist’) to better convey the artistry of his work, and both men numbered members of the aristocracy and royalty among their clients.

The new edition also extends the ODNB’s coverage of historical groups and networks. Essays include the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; the Erasmus Circle of scholars who championed the great Dutch humanist from the early 1500s; and participants in the Northern Rising (1569-70). Essays on more than 320 historical groups—early medieval to late modern—are now available in the ‘Themes’ area of the Oxford DNB online.

Finally, 4000 new links have been added from ODNB entries to online resources providing alternative perspectives on an individual. These include links to 850 English Heritage Blue Plaques, 650 monuments in Westminster Abbey, 200 person records in Queen Victoria’s Journals, 200 Poetry Archive and BBC recordings, and 2500 correspondence records created by Oxford History research project, ‘Early Modern Letters Online’.

Highlights from the new edition are available here. The Oxford DNB is the national record of 60,000 men and women who’ve shaped all walks of British life, worldwide, from the Roman occupation to the 21st century. It’s a research and publishing project of the History Faculty and OUP and available via SOLO.

Dr Philip Carter, Senior Research and Publication Editor, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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