12 May 2022
Sordid details of celebrities’ sex lives scandalised the public and sold huge numbers of newspapers in the 19th century and beyond. However, unlike today, salacious celebrity stories were rarely published in the press. Libel laws were more stringent and a strong sense of deference, especially to aristocratic notables, pervaded.
When a celebrity sex story did break through in the 1800s, it invariably caused a sensation. Our Breaking the News exhibition (22 April – 21 August 2022) showcases three such stories, spanning the century.
The celebs in the spotlight – Caroline of Brunswick, Queen consort of the UK, Lord Byron and Oscar Wilde – were exposed to the public gaze because of a varied mix of their alleged ‘bad behaviour’ (according to contemporary prejudices), legal transgressions and news publishing loopholes.
Portrait of Caroline of Brunswick, 1804, by Thomas Lawrence (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Caroline of Brunswick’s marriage to King George IV was beset by troubles and ill will from the start. He thought her uncouth, she considered him a drunkard and a bore. Upon George’s ascension to the throne in 1820, he instigated divorce proceedings, which, in this era, had to be heard in the Houses of Parliament.
For the first time, the details of Caroline’s lifestyle and the allegations of impropriety coming directly from her estranged husband were voiced in the public domain where previously only gossip and rumour had circulated. Newspapers were able to publish the evidence put forward at the trial in the House of Lords due to a loophole that allowed all proceedings in Parliament to be reported word-for-word in the press.
Coverage of the divorce hearing in The London Chronicle, 1 September 1820 (British Library)
Despite Caroline’s immense popularity with the British public (at the expense of her husband) when the finer points of her affair with Bartolomeo Pergami, an Italian and a commoner, came out the nation was scandalised. However, the remaining public goodwill was such that the Pains and Penalties Bill 1820, which would have stripped Caroline of the title of queen and dissolved her marriage, never made it into the House of Commons.
George IV and entourage laden with provisions, about to embark from Brighton in the Royal Yacht; satirizing the extravagant monarch's distressed retreat from England at the time of the Queen's trial. Coloured etching by R. Cruikshank, 1820. (Wellcome Images CC BY 4.0)
Separation, scandal and self-imposed exile
Only a few years before the royal divorce trial, the intimate details of Lord Byron’s shock separation from Annabella Milbanke, his wife of little more than a year, were leaked to the press. What was the source of this unexpected glimpse into the couples’ private life? Lord Byron’s own verses.
Portrait of Byron, 1813 by Phillips Thomas Phillips (Public domain, Wikimedia Commons)
Two poems were published by The Champion: one laid bare the depth of Byron’s feeling for his erstwhile wife, while the other viciously attacked her close, elderly friend and servant. The broadcasting of such strong personal sentiments was certainly not considered the ‘done thing’ in Regency London. Originally authorised by the poet for a limited print-run for his friends and allies, Byron was betrayed and the poems were maliciously given to the newspaper to print.
Part of one of Lord Byron’s leaked poems in The Champion 14 April 1816, BL NEWS11674
The published poems caused a frenzy of gossip and encouraged wider speculation about Byron’s colourful and unorthodox (in many instances illegal) romantic history.
So intense was public scrutiny and condemnation that Byron felt compelled to leave England. He was never to return. The editorial accompanying the poems describes how the editors viewed Byron’s initial willingness to publish – albeit on a limit run – as an invitation to turn his personal life into current affairs:
‘His Lordship, then, is determined that nothing shall stand between him and public animadversion'.
Oscar Wilde imprisoned!
Photograph of Oscar Wilde, c. 1882, by Martin van Meytes (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
The close of the 19th century saw one of the greatest celebrity scandals of the Victorian age: the trial of Oscar Wilde. The trial itself was a result of Wilde’s hubris. He had initially taken the Marquess of Queensberry to court for publicly referring to Wilde as a ‘somdomite’, a move that grossly backfired and resulted in Wilde facing charges himself.
Evidence of the famous author’s sexual activities were presented to the court and he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’. As a result, Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Gaol. The public were enthralled and closely followed the coverage of proceedings, in print and through illustrations.
The trial of Oscar Wilde in The Illustrated Police News, 4 May 1895. As displayed in the Breaking the News exhibition.
These three historical celebrity stories appear in the Breaking the News exhibition alongside more recent showbiz scoops, including #WagathaChristie, the Rolling Stones drugs bust, and the first paparazzi picture of Diana Spencer, later Princess of Wales.
Breaking the News is open until 21 August 2022. Members go free.
Supported by Newsworks.
Tamara Tubb, Exhibition Curator
04 May 2022
One of the special features of the British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition is a large-scale panorama, created by designers Northover&Brown. Objects and graphics have been placed into flowing pictures of networks, places and people, tracing the changing ways in which we have discovered the news over five centuries, from town squares to what Elon Musk calls ‘the digital town square’. This post complements the panorama.
Interior of a London coffee-house (c.1690), British Museum
Thence to the Coffee-house … where all the newes is of the Dutch being gone out, and of the plague growing upon us in this towne; and of remedies against it: some saying one thing, some another.
On 24 May 1665 Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary of his quest for news. Pepys visited one of London coffee houses two or three times a week over 1663-1664, the habit falling away in 1665 as plague took its grip on the city. He seems not to have cared that much for coffee, but yearned for the companionship, good business contacts and information to be found at a coffee house. Here one discovered the world.
The news one gleaned from a 1660s London coffee house came as much from discussion and talks as it did from printed news. Coffee houses had long tables on which the latest newsbooks and newsletters would be laid out. In 1665 there were only two print newsbooks available (from one publisher), both mostly restricted to overseas news: The Intelligencer and The Newes. The news Pepys discovered was an amalgam of publication, rumour and opinion. Such it was then; such it has remained.
The news has to seek us out. Just as much as it is shaped by those who are able to publish it and those who choose to consume it, news is shaped by where it is found. News publications in Britain in the seventeenth-century were found in print shops, coffee houses, taverns, and in the homes of those in business, officialdom and the church served by private news services that provided handwritten newsletters. Tight publication regulations prevented coverage of anything except overseas events, but the Civil War (1642-1651) created an audience hungry for information and opinion. Mostly confined to London, it was circulated, at some risk to publishers and sellers, as newsbooks, newsletters and proto-newspapers, news from the streets that was sold on the streets.
In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries newspapers gradually grew in numbers, geographical range, and habit. News was carried across the country by mail coaches along ever-improving roads to homes and public spaces such as taverns and workplaces. Copies passed from hand to many other hands. Such news could be shared verbally, reaching out to the illiterate or those priced out of purchasing a newspaper by taxes designed to suppress radical thought. Working class memoirist Thomas Carter recalled passing on the news in 1815:
I every morning gave them an account of what I had just been reading in the yesterday's newspaper ... My shopmates were much pleased at the extent and variety of the intelligence which I was able to give them about public affairs, and they were the more pleased because I often told them about the contents of Mr. Cobbett's "Political Register", as they were warm admirers of that clever and very intelligible writer. (T. Carter, Memoirs of a Working Man, London, 1845)
In the nineteenth century the newspaper flourished, aided by rapid growth in readers and advertising money that freed newspapers from political control. Coffee houses remained a popular location, but from the 1830s newspaper reading rooms emerged, followed later by newspaper sections of public libraries, greatly widening access to local and international affairs to those who had previously been priced out of such knowledge. The rapid spread of a rail network not only boosted the distribution of newspapers but created a new kind of space for news, the commuting space, private consumption in a public environment. Newspapers could be organised to last for the duration of a rail journey. Truly national newspaper titles came to the fore – The Times, The Morning Chronicle, The Daily Telegraph (few other countries have so dominant a national newspaper culture as the UK). Sunday titles such as The Observer and The Sunday Times fitted into the weekend pattern of lives with greater leisure time. All culminated in the great game-changer, The Daily Mail, launched in 1896, a million-seller by 1901.
In the twentieth century different news forms arose to compete for public attention in both private and public spaces. From the 1910s through to the 1960s cinemas usually featured news in their programmes, in the shape of short newsreels, with dedicated news cinemas proliferating across cities from the 1930s. Radio news started in December 1922, delivering its messages exclusively for domestic consumption, building up its reputation so that for the Second World War it was the essential means by which the general public anchored itself to the daily progression of the conflict. BBC television in the 1930s showed only cinema newsreels, introducing its own newsreel in January 1948. It introduced newsreaders in the format that endures to this day in 1955, just ahead of its new commercial rival, ITV. It proved to be the perfect domestic, communal medium, gradually supplanting radio, pressurising the newspapers and crushing cinema newsreels, which could not compete with so frequent a service.
Newspapers were still read on trains and in libraries, but the contest for news supremacy lay in the domestic space. News was something that came to us, that occupied our homes. It tied us constantly to the turn of events happening outside our protective four walls. Local radio and television arose, following newspapers in serving audiences who understood themselves as much regionally as nationally.
The multi-format, domestic model began to be overturned at the turn of the century. The Internet has become a platform for all established news media (press, television, radio) and has led to the creation of new news media forms. Social media combines personal and general information, serves as a distribution platform for stories from the other news media while delivering original content as well, and supplies content on which all news media now depend.
The Internet has not only broken up traditional news forms, but has changed the relationship between news and space. The news no longer needs to seek us out: it is everywhere. Amy, aged 25-30, in a 2019 Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report on news habits of the young, describes how she occupies this world:
I’m on Instagram, for example, and there are videos on there, that could send me to a link to somewhere else… It depends what I’m looking for, but if I’m scrolling that could be anything from a post on Facebook to a video on Instagram to an article on BBC News or something. So, it sort of depends where I am and what I’m looking for.
Part of the ‘Where do we find the news?’ panorama, Breaking the News exhibition, British Library
For 400 years, since the publication of the first newspaper in Britain, the established news media have been defined by regularity. As C. John Sommerville argues, they built an economic model around news as something shaped in a particular form, forever replaced by new content, an idea of news that fed off assured spaces and a regularity of habit. Pepys went to the coffee house when his morning’s office work was done. Newspapers arrived when the mail coach was due, or were read on the daily train commute, or were delivered to the doorstep each day. They called themselves dailies or weeklies, naming themselves after their dependability. News reading rooms were open for when workers had leisure time, a weekly luxury. Newsreels were released twice a week because, in its heyday, that was how often the average person went to the cinema. Radio news established itself around daily bulletins – the six o’clock news, the nine o’clock news. Television followed the same model until it devised 24-hour news, though even that was built around regularity, with headlines on the hour. News has been defined by, indeed has helped shape, the daily round.
The Internet knows no regularity and demands no physical space. It ignores all confines (at least in those societies that permit such freedoms). The Internet is therefore changing the news. We still measure our time in days, but the network through which we communicate across the globe does not. Many, of course, still cling to the daily newspaper, or to the early evening TV news, or a radio report at midnight, signing things off for another day – but these are habits, no longer certainties. What once could be defined by a physical space must now be defined by its absence. The news today is determined not by where we are but by who we are, or who we want to be. This is the unsettling, but exciting, world of news that the twenty-first century is now delivering to us.
Lead Curator, News & Moving Image
Richard D. Altick, The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading Public, 1800-1900 (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1957)
Markman Ellis, The Coffee House: A Cultural History (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004)
Matthew Engel, Tickle the Public: One Hundred Years of the Popular Press (London: Victor Gollancz, 1996)
Andrew Hobbs, A Fleet Street in Every Town: The Provincial Press in England, 1855-1900 (Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2018)
Anthony Smith, The Newspaper: An International History (London: Thames & Hudson, 1979)
John Sommerville, The News Revolution in England: Cultural Dynamics of Daily Information (New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)
31 March 2022
Back in 2016 we wrote a post on this blog entitled News is Beautiful. It looked at the art of infographics and data visualisations in explaining the news of today. How interesting it would be, we speculated, if the infographic artists of today could work with data from historical newspapers. What would the results look like and what would we learn from them? Six years on, we have some answers.
Advocates of Freedom infographic by Ciaran Hughes
On 1 April 2022 a small exhibition opens at the British Library's St Pancras site, entitled Visualising Victorian News. Inspired by the questions we raised back in 2016, a project was established as part of the Library's Heritage Made Digital programme to commission three infographic designers to work with data derived from nineteenth-century British newspapers digitised by the British Library to illustrate significant news themes from the Victorian era. The three artists we commissioned were Tiziana Alocci, Ciaran Hughes and Erik Nylund.
The work began in 2018 with the intention of exhibiting the results in the summer of 2020. Covid-19 put paid to such plans, but the extra two years turned out to be necessary for the learning process we needed to go through. Our original plan was to work from the raw text created by by the process of digitising a newspaper (known as OCR, or Optical Character Recognition), extracting keywords to show patterns of development that we could ask the designers to express visually. It soon became clear that the raw text, though forming an essential component, was too impressionistic on its own and needed to be supported by data from other sources. We learned the importance of have a strong story; of having datasets that complemented and contrasted with each other, enabling comparisons to be made clear; and of the balance required between text, tables and image.
We learned that some stories that we would like to have told did not have the right datasets available. We learned that some datasets were of great interest as datasets, but did not necessarily produce satisfactory stories. Crucially, we learned the importance of working with researchers who had already used data in their work, or who had produced datasets as an output of their research. They could supply the materials needed and explain the themes and arguments that such such data could best serve. Above all we learned that most important of all was a productive, co-operative relationship with the designers, sharing ideas and understanding by the process of building up a complex design what would work best in telling the story.
Visualising Victorian News is the result. There are seven designs, on the themes of Abolitionism, Newspapers, Crime, War, Health, Machines and Tea. Each uses data from digitised newspapers, augmented by data from other sources, to illustrate these news themes. Each follows the original brief we gave to the designers, of looking striking from a distance, then to be full of information for the viewer to discover as they get up close. Each design is accompanied by a panel naming the artist, researchers, data sources and other sources. The designs are on display in the upper ground area of our entrance hall. The exhibition is free, and runs to 21 August 2022, accompanying our major exhibition on British news, Breaking the News, which opens on 22 April and run to the same date.
As it says on the introductory panel of the exhibition, when we digitise a historic object, we do not simply reproduce what the original looks like, but that we untap a wealth of new information from the data it provides. To digitise is to create new histories.
To accompany the exhibition there is an event being held at the Library on 26 April, 19:15-21:00, Beautiful News / Visualising Victorian News. This will bring together the three designers behind our exhibition and David McCandless, the 'king of infographics', whose bestselling books Information is Beautiful and Knowledge is Beautiful have been joined by his latest, very appropriate title, Beautiful News. There will be a special viewing of the exhibition beforehand with the designers present between 17.45 – 19.00.
- Visualising Victorian News exhibition: https://www.bl.uk/events/visualising-victorian-news
- Beautiful News event: https://www.bl.uk/events/beautiful-news-visualising-victorian-news
- David McCandless's Beautiful News: https://informationisbeautiful.net/beautifulnews
- Tiziana Alocci: https://www.tizianaalocci.com
- Ciaran Hughes: https://www.ciaranhughes.design
- Erik Nylund: http://eriknylund.se
08 December 2021
Opening next April, Breaking the News, supported by Newsworks, is a major exhibition from the British Library, spotlighting the role news plays in our society, exploring issues of choice, interpretation, truth and trust in the news.
Smashed hard drives used by The Guardian to store Edward Snowden’s files © Guardian News & Media Ltd 2021
From the earliest surviving printed news report in Britain on the Battle of Flodden in 1513, to smashed hard drives used by The Guardian to store Edward Snowden’s files and an original BBC radio script announcing the D-Day landings, Breaking the News will go beyond physical newspapers to examine the role news in its many forms plays in our lives. Presenting historical and contemporary reports on war, natural disasters, crime, politics and celebrity scandals, the exhibition will reveal that while the themes that interest us generally do not change, the form and ownership of news does.
Breaking the News will interrogate what makes an event news, what a free press means, the ethics involved in making the news, what objective news is and how the way we encounter news has evolved. Delving into the biggest collection of news heritage in the UK, housed by the British Library, these pressing issues will be set against the backdrop of over five centuries of news publication in Britain through newspapers, newsreels, radio, television, the internet and social media.
Ahead of, and then in tandem with the Breaking the News exhibition, pop-up displays will open at over 30 public libraries across the UK, via the Living Knowledge Network. The displays will draw upon each library’s individual collection and regional connections to celebrate the value of regional news in communities across the UK.
Breaking the News will run 22 April-21 August 2022.
The touring exhibition will run 24 February to August 2022.
20 September 2021
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 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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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/
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 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
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
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
24 March 2021
We're delighted to be announcing with Edge Hill University the availability of a fully funded Collaborative Doctoral Studentship from 1 October 2021 under the AHRC’s Collaborative Doctoral Partnership Scheme.
A selection of short-lived British nineteenth-century newspaper titles
The theme is entitled Short-lived Newspapers: Reassessing Success and Failure in the 19th Century Press, and the studentship will focus on a significant but largely neglected part of nineteenth-century British newspaper history - the newspaper that did not last very long. History tends to be written by the winners, and newspaper history tends to focus on those newspaper that lasted for a good period of time and had a significant. This in tur influences decisions on what gets studied, digitised and made most readily available.
At times as much as half of British newspaper titles 1800-1900 lasted for less than five years, and they weren't all 'failures'. Some covered niche topics and were not intended to last long; some were part of a particular business strategy in which a publisher might produce several titles and see which one succeeded; some merged with other titles; some are just mysteries. Even when they were judged failures, that is interesting, because no newspaper ever set out with the expectation of failing. The failures look so much like the successes, bar their duration. Whatever the reasons, this is a history ripe for investigation.
The project will have at its core around 200 newspaper titles that we have been digitising as part of the British Library's Heritage Made Digital programme. It will be jointly supervised by Dr Bob Nicholson and Dr Andrew McInnes at Edge Hill University and by Dr Luke McKernan and Dr Elizabeth Gaskell at the British Library. The student will spend time with both Edge Hill University and the British Library, where there will be the opportunity to gain a deep knowledge of the Library's newspaper collections, both their physical care and digitisation procedures.
Information on the project and an application form can be found on the Edge Hill University site. The deadline for applications is 1 June 2021 at 13:00.
12 November 2020
We are delighted to announce an invitation for academics at UK universities and Higher Education Institutions to collaborate with the British Library on jointly supervised PhD studentships funded through the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships scheme. The Library is seeking proposals for two PhD projects, to start in October 2021, one of which will be based on our nineteenth-century newspaper collections.
The Royal York newspaper ran for nineteen issues May-September 1827
While digitising poor condition London-based nineteenth-century newspapers for the Heritage Made Digital Newspapers project, we became intrigued by the large number of relatively short-lived newspaper titles that fitted within our digitisation criteria, of which so little was known. Newspaper history, and consequently digitisation policy, tends towards the more successful titles that had longer runs. There is much logic to this, but what are we leaving out if we overlook 'failures', and are they really 'failures' at all? There was an opportunity for some fresh thinking about our newspaper heritage.
Entitled Short-lived Newspapers: Reassessing Success and Failure in the 19th Century Press, the CDP will concentrate on newspapers that lasted less than five years, chiefly those held by the British Library (we have digitised some 200 short-run titles as part of Heritage Made Digital). While the proportion of British nineteenth-century newspapers that lasted five years or less varied over time, it was always a significant percentage, often comprising more than half of the news publications in circulation.
The project is concerned with exploring and questioning preconceived ideas of success and failure in the 19th century press. It should investigate whether longevity is a useful metric for measuring the success of a newspaper, and what factors impacted how long a newspaper lasted for. It should also look at large-scale data to explore patterns of ‘success’ or ‘failure’, and map these against wider political, social and technological patterns of the period.
Research areas that could be explored to analyse why some publications thrived and others did not may include, for example, taxation and censorship (particularly the implications of the Six Acts (1819), and the ‘Taxes on Knowledge’); technology and innovation, examining the impact of railways, telegraph technology, and/or new printing technologies; the shifting fashions of reading and journalism, education and literacy; working/leisure patterns or influences originating from outside the United Kingdom.
19th century newspapers lend themselves to research in the fields of newspaper history/periodicals study; cultural, political or economic history; literature; and digital humanities. The research could incorporate a range of research methods such as bibliographic research, aspects of data science, close and distant reading, and audience studies.
Academics at UK universities and Higher Education Institutions interested in this call should download information on the research theme and the application forms here: www.bl.uk/news/2020/november/cdp-call-for-hei-partners-2020.
The application deadline is 5 pm on Friday 18 December 2020.
07 September 2020
Announced as it was in the middle of March of this year, it is possible that not all may have read of the British Library's ambitions to extend its operations in some form through a new public space in Leeds. The government has made a £25 million commitment, as part of the West Yorkshire Devolution deal, to establish a British Library North in Leeds City Centre. Exploratory discussions are underway between Leeds City Council and the British Library and property developer CEG about the Grade 1 listed Temple Works site over the potential for its occupancy by the British Library.
From a Tiziana Alocci infographic on the Crimean War
As part of this process, we have been working with various Leeds organisations and group to explore shared interests through a programme of public events. One of these, the Leeds Digital Festival, takes place 21 September-2 October, and features two events (among 294) that feature the British Library news collections. As we digitise more and more of our news collections, and as research applications of a digital news library continue to develop and challenge us, we are pleased to be able to showcase two particularly interesting events that emphasise creativity and new thinking.
AI and the Headline Archive (24 September, 12:00-13:00 - tickets still available)
As part of the Heritage Made Digital newspapers project, where we are digitising poor condition out-of-copyright newspapers, we are keen to share in imaginative ways of extracting and re-using the data. For this events we have been working with artists Tom Schofield, Sam Skinner and Nathan Jones from Torque Editions, who are using artificial intelligence and speed reading technology to explore aspects of our nineteenth-century newspaper collections, focussing on headlines and story titles. This event will discuss how new discoveries can be made about human-computer reading capacity and media flows by applying artistic and ‘hacker’ techniques to historical data.
Creating Captivating Data Visualisations (29 September 13:00-16:00 - sold out)
In May 2021 the British Library will be hosting a small exhibition on infographics on nineteenth-century themes, created out of newspaper data and other datasets. We have worked with three designers on this projectors, one of whom, the award-winning information designer Tiziana Alocci with host this workshops, together with the British Library's Lead Curator, News, Luke McKernan, Alocci will lead attendees through a hands on, practical workshop in the creative process behind effective data visualisation, exploring best practices in the industry and how to make such work stand out. This project reflects our great interest in showing how historical news resources can be illuminated through current news applications, and in demonstrating creative applications of news data.
The Leeds development is one part of still larger plans to transform the British Library's existing site in the north of England, at Boston Spa in Yorkshire. Thanks to the Chancellor’s commitment, announced in the March budget, to invest up to £95 million, we will be able to renew and develop our Boston Spa site for the 21st century, securing its ability to store and make available our ever-growing national collection for generations to come. It is at Boston Spa that the majority of the nation's newspaper collection is held, in the National Newspaper Building.
Creating Captivating Data Visualisations has sold out already, but tickets are still available for AI and the Headline Archive, which is a free event. Do join us if you can, as we explore how today's technologies can make yesterday's news speak to us in new and exciting ways.
The Newsroom blog recent posts
- Caroline, Byron and Wilde: celebrity scandal in the 19th century
- Encountering the news
- Visualising Victorian News
- Breaking news on Breaking the News
- 400 years of British newspapers
- Free to view online newspapers
- Extending the partnership
- Researching short-lived newspapers
- Collaborative Doctoral Partnership
- The news from Leeds