Dictionary of National Biography

Dictionary of National Biography

This guide will show you how to get started with searching biographies.

You can print or download this Dictionary of National Biography helpsheet [620 KB].

With over 60,000 biographies of the famous and the not-so famous, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography brings to life the histories of the people whose lives that shaped the history of the British Isles and beyond. To be included the person must have died in 2016 or earlier.

How to use the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Go to eInformation: Online Reference Library and click A-Z of electronic resources.

Screenshot of West Sussex LIbraries eInformation page

Scroll down and click on Dictionary of National Biography.

Screenshot of link to Dictionary of National Biography

If you are using your own device you will first need to click Sign in with your Library Card membership number. To then search for a specific person type their name into the search box and press Enter.

Screenshot of login page

Below you can see the result of a search for ex-prime minister James Callaghan. For the full entry click on his name, where the entry is marked Article on the right hand side of the screen.

Screenshot of search results for James Callaghan

The full article then displays. You can download a pdf, print, save or email the article to yourself. If you are writing an academic essay you can also save the citation. Note that articles are usually written by experts in the field. The author’s name appears at the end of each article. At the end you will find a list of sources for further information.

Click the icons shown at the top right of the article to print, save, cite, email or share the article.

Screenshot of icons to save, email and share the document

For other ways to search, leave the search box empty and click the magnifying glass symbol in the search box at the top of the page. Advanced search options are also displayed on the left-hand side of the screen. You will need to scroll down to see all the search options.

Screenshot of alternative search possibilities using the magnifying glass icon

The image shown below displays the options on the left hand side of the screen when searching for a life event such as a birth or death. You can also search by residence to see all the people that lived in a particular town. These options can be useful in Family History research.

Screenshot of drop down box to show significant life events


Other ways we can help you find the information that you need:

Contact the Library Service

Local Clubs and Societies

Family History

Local History


Homework and Research


This guide has been produced by West Sussex County Council Library Service © 2020.

Search the catalogue