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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Guide to Literatures and Languages Databases: Dictionary of National Biography

Tips for Searching DNB

If you are having trouble finding an individual or subject by using a basic or advanced search in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, try using clicking on the BROWSE tab.

The Browse tab will list all the entries in the database alphabetically. This can be useful because it provides the controlled vocabulary the reference tool is using, thereby minimizing spelling errors or omitted terminology that may be useful for your search.

Advanced Searching

People Search. This function will allow you to search an individual by Fields of Interest, Sex, Life Dates, Important Events, Religious Affiliation, Image, and Full-Text.

Full Text Search. Allows you to search for specific contents within all of the DNB's entries.

References Search. This gives you access to the references used to compose each of the DNB entries. Search options include Sources, Archives, Likenesses, and Wealth at Death.

Contributor Search. Gives you the opportunity to search for the authors of a particular entry.

Image Search. This will allow you to search through the 10,000+ images displayed in the DNB. Search options include Artist's Name, Dates, Place, Institution, and Credit for the image.


The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography bills itself as "the national record of men and women who have shaped British history and culture, worldwide, from the Romans to the 21st century." It features nearly 60,000 biographical entries on noteworthy Britons. It was first published in 1885. The most recent published update was in 2004 in a set of 60 volumes. It is continually updated online.


This page will help you navigate through the Dictionary of National Biography and will provide a basic resource for your scholarly research.

Finding the DNB

To find the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, go to the library home page. Under the heading Find Materials, click on the link Databases A-Z. Once there, type "Oxford Dictionary of National Biography" into the search box. Once you click on the link, a new window will pop up. This will take you to the database.

Basic Searching

At the home page, you have three ways to search the contents of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: You may search using the search bar or you may browse by occupation or religious affiliation.

Advanced Searching will allow you to find entries by individual, works, full text, place, occupation, and by image. You may also limit your search by format, type, publication date, availability and more.

This will give you more options and allow you to cross-reference individuals that you may be doing research on.