The dictionary is dead. Long live dictionaries! Notes for a history of national biographical dictionaries in Europe
Since the XIXth century universal biographies of illustrious men left their place to national biographical dictionaries, collecting the lives not only of the great and illustrious, but of every member of a given national community who was deemed in any way worth remembering. Such efforts were obviously related to the process of nation building and meant to perpetuate the new equation between state boundaries and national community. Born in a male-dominated society and strongly oriented towards the celebration of political, scientific or artistic success, they had scant attention for women (only 4% of entries in the British DNB and even less in the Italian DBI); things are slowly changing now, but the model of the national biography is alive and well in the XXIst century, as proven by the new Spanish and Finnish examples, however out of date the whole concept may look in comparison to current historical trends.