Collecting Women's Lives in 'National' History: opportunities and challenges in writing for the ODNB

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Until recently the range of cogently analysed biographies of women was relatively small. Even the Dictionary of National Biography, the most prestigious biographical reference series we have in Britain, had few biographies of women beyond the very famous and royalty. One of the aims of the new and ever extending Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB), published in 2004, is the inclusion of more women and it does have an ever expanding number of biographies. This is at a time when there is increased interest in and subtle explorations of biography as a form of historical writing which can illuminate women's lives. It is worthwhile exploring, therefore, how the ODNB 's tightly constructed way of telling life stories fits into the historiography of writing women's lives. This article investigates this through using a recent case study.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-124
Number of pages16
JournalWomen's History Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010