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Dr Lawrence Goldman, Second HRC Seymour Lecture in Biography

Virtual Lives: History and Biography in an Electronic Age

Venue: National Library of Australia, Canberra, at 6 p.m. on Tuesday 12 September 2006


The British have been compiling dictionaries of biography for five centuries since the Reformation. However, the motives for collecting together memoirs of the eminent and famous, and the literary and political contexts in which these compilations have been made, have varied considerably. In this lecture the present Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography will examine the different rationales for national biography and consider how new technology and the globalisation of cultures have together made possible the compilation of a 'universal' biographical dictionary in our own era. Are biographical dictionaries intrinsically national in their tradition, form and content, or can they be extended beyond conventional political boundaries? This lecture will consider the politics of biography in a virtual and international age.


Dr Lawrence Goldman, tutorial fellow in modern history at St Peter's College, Oxford, became editor of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography on 1 October 2004. He combines his editorship with continuing teaching and research in his college and university roles. Born in London, Lawrence read history at Jesus College, Cambridge between 1976 and 1979, and after graduating went to Yale University on a Harkness fellowship to study American history. On his return to Cambridge he began research into Victorian social science and social policy and was elected a junior research fellow of Trinity College in 1982. Three years later his first teaching position was in Oxford's department for continuing education as university lecturer in history and politics. He retains a strong commitment to adult education and teaches adult classes on a regular basis. He is currently president of the Thames and Solent district of the Workers' Educational Association and he participated in the WEA's centenary celebrations this in 2003. In 1990 he took up his post at St Peter's College, Oxford, where he has taught modern British and American history to undergraduates and research students; he has also been the admissions tutor and senior dean of his college. In 2000–01 he was elected university assessor, an administrative position alongside the proctors, with special responsibility for student welfare. Most recently he has chaired the first ever review of the archives of the University of Oxford, which date back to 1214.

Dr Goldman is primarily a historian of modern Britain, but he has also published on American and transatlantic history. In addition to articles and essays in journals and collections, he is the author of Dons and Workers: Oxford and Adult Education since 1850 (OUP, 1995) and Science, Reform, and Politics in Victorian Britain: the Social Science Association, 1857–1886 (CUP, 2002). He edited a collection of essays on Henry Fawcett, the Victorian politician and political economist, entitled The Blind Victorian: Henry Fawcett and British Liberalism (CUP, 1989). He is also co-editor of a forthcoming volume of essays in memory of Colin Matthew, first editor of the Oxford DNB, entitled The Political Culture of Victorian Britain. He is now working on a biography of the political thinker and historian R. H. Tawney.

Ian Donaldson, Heather Munro AO, John Seymour, and Lawrence Goldman

Copies of this lecture which is in Issue No. 292, page 37, please contact Australian Book Review E: abr@vicnet.net.au