By Sue Leeman
The Associated Press
George Washington and Princess Diana are near the back, while such lesser-knowns as murdered Liverpool toddler Jamie Bulger and the Busby Babes, a tragic soccer team, occupy the front.
No, it's not another wax museum, but the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, the printed pantheon of Britons great and small, which was published last week by Oxford University Press.
The inclusion of photographer Linda McCartney, the late wife of former Beatle Paul and a campaigner for animal rights, raised some eyebrows. But the publisher said it was a sign that the 60-volume work is becoming more egalitarian.
Linda McCartney "was also a very important cultural figure in her own right," editor Brian Harrison said. "I'm not saying that she should get as much attention as Queen Victoria, but the great pride of the dictionary is that it should have small people as well as large people in it."
The dictionary contains its usual quota of royals, politicians, rock stars, scientists, philosophers and philanthropists, assassins, builders, gardeners, footballers, engineers - and even hairdressers.
In their bid to include more of those who have affected British public life, the editors have included some darker examples among the 54,922 entries - those whose deaths, as much as their lives, affected Britain:
The Bulger baby, abducted and murdered by two 10-year-old boys in his home town of Liverpool, a case that caused a national outcry.
Stephen Lawrence, a young black man who was 18 when he was murdered by white youths in 1993; his case led to a change in procedures by the London police force, which bungled the investigation.
Jill Dando, the TV personality shot to death on her own doorstep in 1999.
The Manchester United soccer team, known affectionately as the Busby Babes after their coach Matt Busby, killed in a plane crash in Germany in 1958.
"These are not just people who were killed but people who had an impact," said projects director Robert Faber.
It has taken 12 years and more than $45 million to update the dictionary, founded in 1882 by Leslie Stephen, father of author Virginia Woolf. A team of researchers will now review its content three times a year.
Only people who died before Dec. 31, 2000, are included. Not all are British-born but some, like composer Friedrich Handel and father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, used their time in Britain to influence society.
The Oxford University Press has abandoned any hopes of making money from the book, which at a cost of $13,500 a copy will sell mostly to institutions. But the publisher sees it as a valuable piece of academic research.
For example, the item on Diana, Princess of Wales, they said, is a "warts-and-all" portrayal of the much-loved but troubled royal.
The number of women included has doubled and now makes up 10 percent of the entries. And of the 16,315 people appearing in the dictionary for the first time, more than 8,000 lived and died before 1900.
Historical figures who have made it for the first time include Jack the Ripper, who terrorized the East End of Victorian London. And there is an item on Shakespeare's King Lear, a fictional character who achieved mythical or legendary importance.
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