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ISSN 1749-8155

Online Dictionaries of National BiographyPrinter-friendly versionPDF version

Digital resource:
Australian Dictionary of Biography
edited by: Melanie Nolan
Canberra, Australian National University
Digital resource:
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
edited by: Lawrence Goldman
Oxford, Oxford University Press
Digital resource:
Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
edited by: John English
Toronto, University of Toronto
Digital resource:
Dictionary of Irish Biography
edited by: James McGuire
Dublin, Royal Irish Academy
Digital resource:
Dictionary of New Zealand Biography
edited by: Nancy Swarbrick
Wellington, New Zealand Government, Ministry for Culture and Heritage
Digital resource:
American National Biography Online
edited by: Susan Ware
Oxford, Oxford University Press
Dr Martin Farr
University of Newcastle
Dr Martin Farr, review of Online Dictionaries of National Biography, (review no. 1259)
Date accessed: 28 February, 2024


P. HirtleThu, 24/05/2012 - 16:57
Wouldn't it have made sense to include hyperlinks to these online resources in the review?
ihr.webmasterThu, 24/05/2012 - 17:01
Sorry, thought we had done - hope these all work now...
ihr.webmasterFri, 25/05/2012 - 15:51
There's also a blog on this topic by my colleague Simon Baker from the Bibliography of British and Irish History -
Tony LudgateFri, 25/05/2012 - 18:23
I'm just wondering if there was any point doing this review. To me it wasn't helpful, revealing, inciteful. If I want to know about a Canadian I'll still go to the Canadian one; ditto Newzealander; etc etc. Are any of the entries inaccurate? Again, what's the point???
Martin FarrSat, 26/05/2012 - 23:43
I did of course make precisely that point. I still hope it fruitful to have considered what each offers, comparatively, even if their utility may be limited. To have assessed which of the 80,000+ entries was inaccurate was, alas, beyond my means.
Charles G. V. C...Sun, 27/05/2012 - 18:26
Leaving aside the demotic usage itself ("old, dead, white european, male), what is particularly egregious in Dr. Farr's employment of this term in his review, is how nonsensical it is as it pertains to the UK. The UK last time I checked my map, is located in Europe and for upwards of ninety-nine percent of its history, non-European, id. est., non-white peoples, had almost no part of that history. Given these perhaps most unfortunate, but empirically unchallengeable facts, what possible history could the DNB be, but that of dead, white, european people?
Simon BakerMon, 28/05/2012 - 14:06
I found the review very useful. Not only did it confirm my views of some of the dictionaries (always a plus) but also gave context to their compilation. Oftentimes users simply use a resource and are unaware of its history, development or even the full scale of the project. And all too often users simply key in a simple search term and are not aware of other search strategies or resources available on a site. To compare and contrast similar online resources (often alerting people to new resources) is also helpful. In my blog I hoped to generate some discussion by mentioning the Welsh Online Biography (not mentioned by Farr) and requesting details of any Scottish online dictionary.
Martin FarrTue, 29/05/2012 - 09:28
I employed "Dead White European Males" as a term because it's long been the popular summarisation of a central critique of much western historiography. This review deals with six national biographies, and for four of them the 'DWEM' issue is a live one. "Males" has an additional dimension in that the gender balance such biographies remains contentious, but, as I write in the review, is a necessary reflection of roles in previous eras. Rather than being "egregrious", I'd maintain that by ignoring the subject I'd have been culpable.