The Newsroom blog

News about yesterday's news, and where news may be going

Introduction

Whether you are studying history, politics, society, international relations, economics, media history, sports history or family history, our collections will have something for you Read more

20 September 2021

400 years of British newspapers

On 24 September 1621, London printer Nathaniel Butter published a newspaper. It wasn’t called a newspaper, but there were sufficient elements that we recognise as those which make a newspaper. It had reports on a number of news stories, all of them current. It was published on a specific date. It was one a series of news publications with the same title (or approximately so), introducing a pattern. The title appeared at the top of the sheet: Corante, or, newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France.

Front page of the first British newspaper from 24 September 1621

Front page of Corante, or, newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France, published 24 September 1621

As with all first, the first British newspaper needs to come with qualifications and caveats. It was not the first newspaper published in English, as English language newspapers, or corantos, had been published in Amsterdam since at least December 1620. It may have been preceded by corantos published in 1621 by London printer Thomas Archer, but those do not survive. Although published in London, in English, it was effectively a translation from a Dutch original, as were the earlier news publications. It was not the only type of news publication available, as single-story newssheets had long existed before this date, and manuscript news service were available to subscribers, but it was irrefutably something new. It established the rhythm of public news in Britain.

There is advice from Naples, that certain Ambassadours of Messina are arrived there and from thence are to go to Spaine, to congratulate the king and to give him a present of 150000 crownes, as also that in Naples a contention falling out between the Spaniards and Neopolitans, there were many on both sides slaine and wounded, so that if the Cardinall the Vice Roy had not stept in among them, there would have been a great slaughter.

By letters of the 21 from Genoa it is certified that Petro de Liena is arrived there with two galleys from Spaine, and that the rest stay still at Vado.

There are 8000 men of Moravia, Bohemia and many souldiers of Sylesia gathered together in Marble, that are to go withal speede to releeve Presburge.

The Earl of Colalto, 8 dayes since, meeting with the Hungarians that came to Newstadt, and there in the suburbs took certain children and carreyed them prisoners, whereof some of them were Turkes.

Not that the first British newspaper had anything to say on its two sides on the one sheet of paper about news in Britain. Aside from being a translation from Dutch publications, it was far too dangerous to challenge the British authorities by publishing news about what was happening at home. Instead, the Corante, or, newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France told its readership about what was going on in Europe, with particular focus on the Thirty Years War. This was important news for the merchants and officials who were likely reader of the publication – it affected their business, it was a general topic of conversation, it was news for them.

Publication date of the first British newspaper from the bottom of its second side

Bottom of other side of Corante, or, newes from Italy, Germany, Hungarie, Spaine and France, showing publication details with date, 24 September 1621

This first surviving first British newspaper is held by the British Library. On 23 September 2021 we are hosting an event to mark this quatercententary. Old News, New Perspectives: 400 years of Newspapers will look at the origins of newspapers and the transformative growth of news in this country ever since. Its special guest speakers will be Matthew Shaw, formerly of the British Library and now Librarian at The Queen’s College, Oxford, author of the recently-published An Inky Business: A History of Newspapers from the English Civil Wars to the American Civil War; and the Times columnist and former MP Matthew Parris, who in 2015 won the British Press Award for Political Journalist of the Year. The event will be introduced by Chief Librarian Liz Jolly.

Details of the event can be found here: https://www.bl.uk/events/old-news-new-perspectives-400-years-of-newspapers

09 August 2021

Free to view online newspapers

We are delighted to be announcing a major development for newspapers digitised from the British Library’s collection. From today, one million pages on the British Newspaper Archive site have become free to view, so not requiring any subscription payment. These one million pages will be followed by one million more each year for the next four years, creating a substantial free historical newspaper resource which should greatly expand the use of and understanding of historical newspapers.

Front page of The Sun newspaper 28 June 1838 marking Queen Victoria coronation

Special 'golden' issue of The Sun, 28 June 1838, marking the coronation of Queen Victoria

This has been made possible through a new partnership agreement between the British Library and Findmypast, the family history company which manages the British Newspaper Archive. The BNA has over 44 million newspaper pages, mostly British and Irish titles, ranging from 1699 to 2009, or just under 10 per cent of all newspapers held by the British Library. The BNA is a subscription site, the payment made by users helping to digitise and preserve yet more newspapers.

The Colored News 15 September 1855_Colliery explosion at Darley Maine

The Colored News, 15 September 1855

It has long been the goal of the British Library to make some of its digitised newspapers freely available online, but we also want to see the BNA succeed as it has been doing, without which we could not have reached such a huge collection overall of digitised newspapers, nor the rate at which they are being produced (currently around half a million pages are being added to the BNA every month).

The ‘free to view’ solution keeps the successful model in place, while making a significant and varied selection of titles freely available to all, to view and to download, without charge. There are 158 titles on offer, ranging from 1720 to 1880. The latter date is significant. All of the newspapers that make up the ‘free to view’ offer are out-of-copyright. The British Library keeps to a ‘safe date’ when determining when a newspaper can be considered to be entirely out-of-copyright, which is 140 years after the date of publication.

The newspapers selected come from four British Library projects, plus some selected by Findmypast themselves.

  • 19th Century Newspapers was a project funded by the Joint Information Systems. Committee over 2004-09, our first major newspaper digitisation programme
  • Heritage Made Digital newspapers is an ongoing digitisation project focussing on newspapers in a poor or unfit condition
  • Living with Machines is an ongoing research project, jointly led by the British Library and the Alan Turing Institute, which has been digitising selected UK regional newspapers as part of a major study of the British industrial age, using artificial intelligence tools to undertake new kinds of historical enquiry.
  • The Endangered Archives Programme facilitates the digitisation of archives around the world that are in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration

The Barbadian newspaper from 1 January 1823

Barbados newspaper The Barbadian, 1 January 1827

So, what is on offer? The full list of titles is given below, but these are some of particular interest:

  • The Barbadian (1822-1861) - covers the transition of Barbados from the colonial, pre-modern to the modern era, including the Emancipation (1834), and the end of the apprenticeship system (1838)
  • The British Emancipator (1837-1840) - anti-slavery newspaper which fought for the abolition of the system of apprenticeship, which was put into place after slavery was abolished in the British Colonies
  • British Miner and General Newsman (1862-1867) – journal devoted to working miners, which went through a number of titles including The Miner, The Workman’s Advocate and The Commonwealth
  • Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register (1803-1836) – famous and hugely influential vehicle for the ideas and opinions of the great nineteenth-century radical William Cobbett
  • The Examiner (1808-1880) – leading radical weekly, edited by Leigh Hunt, with contributors including William Hazlitt, John Keats and Percy Shelley
  • Illustrated Sporting and Theatrical News (1862-1870) - lively newspaper covering a wide range of sports and theatrical events, with many fine illustrations
  • The Jamaica Mercury and Kingston Weekly Advertiser (1779-1840) – West Indies newspaper notorious for its slavery advertisements, later known as The Royal Gazette of Jamaica
  • The Lady’s Newspaper and Pictorial Times (1847-1863) - one of the earliest newspapers produced for an exclusively female audience
  • Morning Herald (1800-1869) – founded on 1780, a national daily that for a number of years rivalled The Times in importance
  • The Poor Man’s Guardian (1831-1835) - the most successful and influential of the radical unstamped (and thus illegal) newspapers of the early 1830s
  • The Sun (1801-1871) – a daily evening national newspaper, founded in 1792, originally with pro-government and anti-French revolutionary stance, before changing to advocate liberal and free trade principles

There a few things to note about the free to view service. Users will still need to sign up with the British Newspaper Archive to be able to access them, though no charge will be made for their use. The fact that we consider newspapers made before 1881 to be in the public domain does not mean that we can make all pre-1881 digitised titles available for free – the BNA is dependent on subscriptions to maintain the considerable effort required to sustain it, and the one million pages per year arrangement is intended to protect that model.

We will be adding more free-to-view titles over the next four years at least, but we cannot say as yet what those titles will be. However, we are aware that the current list has a bias towards London/national titles and the north of London and will be rectifying the geographical imbalance in subsequent free-to-view releases.

Poor Mans Guardian newspaper 23 July 1831

Radical 'unstamped' newspaper The Poor Man's Guardian newspaper with its famous motto 'Knowledge is Power', from 23 July 1831

We hope that this is the start of a significant change in the study of British newspapers, and the study of so many topics as reported in those newspapers. Our list includes newspapers that are of established importance in understanding the nineteenth century, but also titles that currently do not feature as strongly as they might in research. Digitisation should not only make the familiar more readily available, but bring to new life the unfamiliar. There is so much to be discovered here, and much more to follow.

More information on discovering and using the 'free to view' titles is available on the British Newspaper Archive at https://blog.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/2021/08/09/introducing-free-to-view-pages-on-the-british-newspaper-archive.

See also a blog post on the Alan Turing Institute's Living with Machines project: https://livingwithmachines.ac.uk/sharing-the-benefits-free-to-view-newspapers-on-the-british-newspaper-archive/

Crystal Palace Reading Room from The Ladys Newspaper_24 March 1855

People reading newspapers in the Crystal Palace Reading Room, London, from The Lady's Newspaper, 24 March 1855

List of titles

Below is a complete listing of all newspaper titles on the initial ‘free to view’ list of one million pages, including changes of title. Start and end dates are for what is being made freely available, not necessarily the complete run of the newspaper. For a few titles there are some missing issues for the dates given. A PDF copy of the list is available here:  Download Free to view British Library newspapers list 9 August 2021.

The Age (1825-1843)

Alston Herald, and East Cumberland Advertiser (1875-1879)

The Argus, or, Broad-sheet of the Empire (1839-1843)

The Atherstone Times (1879-1879), The Atherstone, Nuneaton, and Warwickshire Times (1879-1879)

Baldwin's London Weekly Journal (1803-1836)

The Barbadian (1822-1861)

Barbados Mercury (1783-1789), Barbados Mercury, and Bridge-town Gazette (1807-1848)

The Barrow Herald and Furness Advertiser (1863-1879)

The Beacon (Edinburgh) (1821-1821)

The Beacon (London) (1822-1822)

The Bee-Hive (1862-1870), The Penny Bee-Hive (1870-1870), The Bee-Hive (1870-1876), Industrial Review, Social and Political (1877-1878)

The Birkenhead News and Wirral General Advertiser (1878-1879)

The Blackpool Herald (1874-1879)

Blandford, Wimborne and Poole Telegram (1874-1879), The Blandford and Wimbourne Telegram (1879-1879)

Bridlington and Quay Gazette (1877-1877)

Bridport, Beaminster, and Lyme Regis Telegram and Dorset, Somerset, and Devon Advertiser (1865, 1877-1879)

Brighouse & Rastrick Gazette (1879-1879)

The Brighton Patriot, and Lewes Free Press (1835-1836), Brighton Patriot and South of England Free Press (1836-1839)

The British Emancipator (1837-1840)

The British Liberator (1833-1833)

The British Luminary; or, Weekly News and General Advertiser (1818-1818), The British Luminary and National Intelligencer (1818-1818), The British Luminary and Weekly Intelligence (1818-1820), The British Luminary, or Weekly Intelligencer (1820-1820), The Weekly Intelligencer, and British Luminary (1820-1821), The British Luminary and Weekly Intelligencer (1821-1823)

British Miner and General Newsman (1862-1863), The Miner (1863-1863), The Miner and Workman's Advocate (1863-1865), The Workman's Advocate (1865-1866), The Commonwealth (1866-1867)

The British Press; or, Morning Literary Advertiser (1803-1826)

Caledonian Mercury (1720-1799), Caledonian Mercury (1800-1859), The Caledonian Mercury and Daily Express (1859-1860), The Caledonian Mercury (1860-1867)

The Cannock Chase Examiner (1874-1877)

The Central Glamorgan Gazette, and General, Commercial, and Agricultural Advertiser (1866-1879)

Champion (1836-1836), The Champion and Weekly Herald (1836-1840)

The Charter (1839-1840)

Chartist (1839-1839)

Chartist Circular (1839-1841)

Cleave's Weekly Police Gazette (1835-1836), Cleave's Weekly Police Gazette and Journal of News, Politics, and Literature (1836-1836)

Cobbett's Annual Register (1802-1804), Cobbett's Weekly Political Register (1804-1836)

Colored News (1855-1855)

Cradley Heath & Stourbridge Observer (1864-1864), The Observer, Cradley Heath, Halesowen & District Chronicle (1864-1866), The Stourbridge Observer, Cradley Heath, Halesowen & District Chronicle (1866-1879)

The Darlington & Stockton Telegraph, Richmond Herald, South Durham and North York Review (1870-1870), Darlington & Richmond Herald (1873-1874)

Denton, Haughton, & District Weekly News, The (1873-1874), Denton & Haughton Weekly News, and Audenshaw, Hooley Hill, and Dukinfield Advertiser (1874-1875), Denton Examiner, Audenshaw, Hooley Hill and Dukinfield Advertiser (1875-1878), Denton and Haughton Examiner (1878-1879)

The Dewsbury Chronicle, and West Riding Advertiser (1872-1875)

The Dorset County Express and Agricultural Gazette (1858-1879)

The Examiner (1808-1880)

The Express (1846-1869)

The Forest of Dean Examiner (1875-1877)

The Glasgow Chronicle (1844-1857)

Glasgow Courier (1802, 1844-1866)

Illustrated Sporting News and Theatrical and Musical Review (Illustrated Sporting News, Theatrical Review (1862-1865), Illustrated Sporting and Theatrical News (1865-1870)

The Imperial Weekly Gazette (1808-1810), The Imperial Weekly Gazette and Westminster Journal (1818-1823), Imperial Gazette (1823-1825)

The Jamaica Mercury and Kingston Weekly Advertiser (1779-1780), The Royal Gazette (1780-1836), The Royal Gazette and Jamaica Times (1838-1840), The Royal Gazette of Jamaica (1840-1840)

Jewish Record (1868-1871)

The Kenilworth Advertiser (1872-1879)

The Lady's Newspaper and Pictorial Times (1847-1863)

The Lady's Own Paper (1866-1872)

The Lancaster Herald, and Town and County Advertiser (1831-1832)

The Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser (1832-1854), Liverpool Standard and General Advertiser (1854-1855), Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser (1855-1856)

Liverpool Weekly Courier (1867-1879)

Lloyd's Companion to the "Penny Sunday Times and Peoples' Police Gazette" (1841-1847)

London Dispatch and People's Political and Social Reformer (1836-1839)

The Manchester Examiner (1848-1848)

Manchester Times (1828-1829), The Manchester Times and Gazette (1829-1848), Manchester Times and Manchester and Salford Advertiser and Chronicle (1848-1848)

The Midland Examiner and Times (1877-1877), The Midland Examiner and Wolverhampton Times (1877-1878)

Mirror of the Times (1800-1823)

The Morning Chronicle (1801-1865)

Morning Herald (1801-1869)

The National Register (1808-1823)

The New Weekly True Sun (1836-1836)

The News (1805-1835), The News and Sunday Herald (1835-1837), The News and Sunday Globe (1837-1839)

The Northern Daily Times (1853-1857), Northern Times (1857-1860), The Daily Times (1860-1861)

The Northern Liberator (1837-1840), The Northern Liberator and Champion (1840-1840)

Northern Star and Leeds General Advertiser (1838-1844), The Northern Star and National Trades' Journal (1844-1852), The Star and National Trades' Journal (1852-1852), The Star of Freedom (1852-1852)

The Nuneaton Times (1878-1879)

The Odd Fellow (1839-1842)

The Operative (1838-1839)

Pictorial Times (1843-1848)

Pierce Egan's Life in London (1824-1827)

The Pontypridd District Herald and Rhondda Valley, Llantrisant, Caerphilly, and Mountain Ash News (1878-1879)

The Poole Telegram (1879-1879)

The Poor Man's Guardian (1831-1835)

The Potteries Examiner (1871-1879)

The Press (1853-1866)

Runcorn and Widnes Examiner (1870-1876), Runcorn Examiner (1877-1879)

The St. Helens Examiner, and Prescot Weekly News (1879-1879)

The Saint James's Chronicle (1801-1866)

Shropshire Examiner and all round the Wrekin Advertiser (1874-1877)

The South Staffordshire Examiner (1874-1874)

The Southern Star and London and Brighton Patriot (1840-1840)

Stalybridge Examiner, and Ashton, Dukinfield and Mossley Advertiser (1876-1876)

The Star (1801-1831)

The Statesman (1806-1824)

The Stockton Examiner, and South Durham and North Yorkshire Herald (1879-1879)

Stockton Gazette and Middlesbrough Times (1860-1865), Middlesbro' & Stockton Gazette and General Advertiser (1868-1868), The Middlesbrough Gazette and General Advertiser (1869-1869), Middlesbrough & Stockton Gazette and General Advertiser (1869-1876), The Weekly Gazette for Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool and Cleveland District (1876-1879)

Stockton Herald, South Durham and Cleveland Advertiser (1858-1879)

Stretford and Urmston Examiner (1879-1879)

The Sun (1801-1871)

Swansea and Glamorgan Herald, and South Wales Free Press (1847-1879)

The Tamworth Miners' Examiner and Working Men's Journal (1873-1873), The Tamworth Examiner and Working Men's Journal (1873-1876)

The Warrington Examiner (1885-1878), The Warrington & Mid-Cheshire Examiner (1879-1879)

The Weekly Chronicle (1836-1851), The Weekly News and Chronicle (1851-1854), The Weekly Chronicle (1855-1855), The Weekly Chronicle and Register (1855-1864), The Weekly Chronicle and Register of Banking, Insurance, Railway and Mining Companies, Trade and Commerce (1864-1867)

Westminster Journal and Old British Spy (1805-1810)

The Weymouth, Portland and Dorchester Telegram (1862-1878)

Widnes Examiner (1876-1879)

Wolverhampton Times and Bilston, Willenhall, Wednesfield, and Sedgley Journal (1874-1875), The Wolverhampton and Midland Counties Advertiser (1875-1876)

24 May 2021

Extending the partnership

We are very pleased to be able to announce that the British Library and family history website Findmypast have extended their partnership operation of the British Newspaper Archive.

British Newspaper Archive website

British Newspaper Archive

The BNA was originally launched in 2011, with the aim of digitising newspapers from the British Library's collection, making these available  on the website, and delivering a digital preservation copy back to the British Library. An ambitious goal of 40 million pages was set for the ten-year arrangement, one which has now been reached.

The archive features four centuries of newspapers (currently 1699-2009), regional, national and international, digitised from both print and microfilm holdings. The advantage of the digital archive is not just the increase in access, but the long-term protection it guarantees for the fragile print newspapers themselves, as the handling of them becomes greatly reduced.

The BNA is aimed primarily at family history researchers, to whom it has been of huge benefit, but it has also attracted many academic researchers, becoming an essential reference source for almost any modern history topic. The regular flow of new content (currently around 400,000 pages are added to the site every month), makes the return visit essential, whatever your discipline. If the answer is not there today, it could well be tomorrow.

The extension of the partnership will mean a further fourteen million pages will be added to the BNA over the next three years. The BNA is a subscription site, but also promised is that one million pages to be made free-to-access each year. The launch date for this development can't be announced as yet, nor the titles that will feature, but they will all be out-of-copyright and therefore from the late nineteenth century and earlier. We are expecting this to have a major effect on how our digitised newspapers are used, and who uses them.

This free offer comes from plans being developed at the British Library to open up our news collections where we can. Complementing the free access to selected newspapers on the BNA will be open datasets on our Research Repository, presenting the digitised texts alone in a form that will benefit the new generation of researchers interested in 'big data', enabling them to seek new answers to old questions, and to tackle new questions that we had not been able to ask before now.

Much has changed in the world of newspaper research over the past ten years. There will all the more change in the next three years, as digitisation continues to have an immense impact on how we care for, present, and understand our historical news archives.

British Library press release: https://www.bl.uk/press-releases/2021/may/british-library-and-findmypast-announce-renewal-of-long-term-partnership

Findmypast press release: https://www.findmypast.co.uk/blog/new/british-library-renewal