By Jo Payne, Head of Biographical and General Reference, Oxford University Press

Our masthead proudly proclaims “The life of a nation is told by the lives of its people,” and we take that mandate seriously at the American National Biography.  The more than 19,000 entries in the ANB primarily capture figures of national prominence, but we also aim to include those whose influence was felt primarily at the regional or local levels. Can we enlist your help in expanding our biographical reach?

A commitment to diversity – to representing all facets of the American experience, including but not limited to race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, region, occupation, and more – is our primary goal at the ANB. We want this biographical reference work to mirror American society, with well-known figures such as presidents and generals sharing space with midwives, Native American trappers, bank robbers, and cartoonists. All fit our broadly defined standard of significance, which includes achievement (superior accomplishment as judged by contemporaries), fame (celebrity or notoriety), or influence (effect on one’s own time despite lack of public notice).  The only hard and fast rule is that all our subjects must be deceased.

Any biographical dictionary that lacks the ability to update and expand its coverage will gradually lose its usefulness, precisely because the world continues to change and evolve, a process which compounds over time. Our online capabilities allow us to keep this rich and deeply-researched source up-to-date and in conversation with new trends in history teaching and historical writing by continually adding new entries and updating old ones. We regularly consult with scholars representing a broad range of fields and welcome suggestions from our loyal readers.

We hope that you can help us address the gaps in our coverage at the state and local level. To see who’s included already, visit, where you can search and view search results, without needing a subscription. Just enter a name in the quick search box, or a state, town, or county in the full text search, or you can also search for individuals by the state in which they were born. Who have we missed? We seek nominations of subjects who were not included in the original ANB print publication in 1999, as well as those who have died in the decades since. We also seek authors to write essays in their area of expertise. It might seem like a simple proposition to condense a life into 1,000-1,200 words, but the short biographical format is in fact quite challenging. And for figures whose influence was primarily local rather than national, we will be especially dependent on authors who know the sources.

We are proud of our band of ANB authors, and enjoy introducing new authors to this format.  The ANB will be a richer and more representative reference work for your suggestions and contributions. To encourage you to make use of this resource, and to contribute your own knowledge and expertise, we are offering one month of FREE access in September 2018 to the American National Biography. Use these credentials:

Username: AASLH
Password: ANB2018

Please note these credentials are for your personal use and should not be shared.

We look forward to hearing from you with suggestions, comments, and queries at [email protected]. Happy browsing!