Oxford in the World: The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Global Biography

Thursday, January 7, 2016: 1:00 PM
Grand Ballroom B (Hilton Atlanta)
David N. Cannadine, Princeton University
From one perspective, the ODNB is the national record of the men and women who have shaped the British past, from pre-history until (so far) the year 2011, and as of January 2015 it now comprises almost 60,000 biographies.  But while from this perspective it may be seen as a nationally conceived and nationally executed work, in fact the ODNB is also a work of international range and transnational reach. From the earliest times, Britons interacted with people in continental Europe and North Africa; by the early modern period they were travelling to and trading with many parts of the globe; and many biographies from the eighteenth century onwards are of British nationals who lived most of their lives overseas, in the formal or informal British Empire, or in the wider world beyond.  As the ODNB makes plain, British history has, for good or for ill, or for good and ill, been made in many parts of the world beyond Britain itself.  At the same time, and in keeping with Britain's long history of immigration, asylum and assimilation, the Dictionary also includes many entries on people born outside the British Isles who came to Britain, and who influenced and shaped its national life, as observers, long-term residents, as naturalized subjects, or as later leaders of movements for colonial independence.

Thus regarded, an ostensibly 'national' dictionary of biography is in fact a major resource for the study of global history.

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