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

04 May 2022

Encountering the news

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 c1690

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.

Where do we find the news panorama at  Breaking the News exhibition

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.

Luke McKernan

Lead Curator, News & Moving Image

Further reading:

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)

19 April 2022

Breaking the News

Breaking the News is our new exhibition looking at 500 years of published news in this country. It is about what has been news to us, why it has been important, what has changed over this five centuries, and what has remained the same. It is an exhibition about the stories that have shaped us. Its overall message is that news matters.

Breaking the News title design

Breaking the News title

Of course news has been around for more than five hundred years. News is as old as society. When the people in one cave learned that those in the cave next door has discovered fire, that was news. The crucial element is publication, where someone has collected that news and presented it in a form that we the readers, the listeners and the viewers, will accept as news.

News is a contract between those who gather it and those who consume it. It is that contract, that tension between them and us, that is the subject of our exhibition.

The exhibition’s focus is on British news, or rather what the British have understood as news. To have produced an exhibition on news across the world would have been too much, and not so instructive. News is not only as old as society, but is determined by society. What is news to one group of people may not be news to another, though their perception of what is news to them is always going to be changing. News can only be understood through its audience, and for our exhibition that audience is the British.

The exhibition does not trace the history of published news in this country chronologically. It is a thematic exhibition in which objects from different time periods and on different formats are brought together to show how various our news has been, and yet how common our news interests have remained. We have newspapers and news websites, broadsides and newsreels, tweets and television programmes, headlines and hashtags.

There are around 100 objects in the exhibition, but it is better to think of them as 100 stories – stories that have made up our news over five centuries. Stories are what draw us to the news, and which make up our news publications. Here are five of them, with the headline titles that accompany them in the exhibition:

Victory for the English Army

Battle of Flodden news pamphlet from 1513

Battle of Flodden news pamphlet from 1513

Breaking the News traces the news in this country since the publication of this pamphlet reporting on the outcome of the Battle of Flodden, fought between the English and Scottish armies in 1513.  It is the earliest surviving example of a news publication in this country.

The English army was victorious, and King James IV of Scotland was killed. The pamphlet gives a full and graphic account of the course of the battle. It is compelling newsy, with its strong headline, vivid illustration, on-the-spot reportage and fact-filled information. It is news as we understand it, composed in an event’s immediate aftermath, designed for quick distribution for those who needed to know what had happened.

Who those readers were cannot be said for certain, but such a pamphlet was a means of circulating information far beyond the English court. Those in the upper echelons of society had messengers who would deliver manuscript newsletters to them. Everybody else, however, would have made do with word of mouth or cheap, printed news pamphlets like this. One way or another, news spreads.

Tax dodger

Bertholds Political Handkerchief 8 September 1831

Berthold's Political Handkerchief from 8 September 1831

From 1712 to 1855, the British government imposed a high tax on newspapers through the Stamp Act to control the press. Effectively the intention was to restrict news to those who could afford it, who were the ruling elite.

Berthold’s Political Handkerchief, created by political writer Henry Berthold and published in 1831, urged revolt against national debt and the government. It was printed on cloth, a cheeky attempt to avoid the tax and escape censorship by claiming it did not qualify as a paper.

The authorities were not persuaded by Berthold’s ruse and the newspaper only ran for a few issues. But ‘unstamped’ newspapers, as they became known, continued to refuse to pay the tax and defy attempts to suppress working class access to news.

Guernsey fights back

Guernsey Underground News Service from 4 August 1943

Guernsey Underground News Service issue from 4 August 1943, loaned for the exhibition by Priaulx Library, Guernsey

There are few more powerful expressions of the desire for a free press than Guernsey Underground News Service (GUNS). The Channel Islands were the only part of the British Isles occupied by Germany during the Second World War. One of the Germans’ first actions after the invasion was to seize control of the local press, but this only triggered local underground news services, of which the most celebrated is GUNS.

GUNS published transcripts of BBC news broadcasts obtained in secret (radio sets were banned in occupied Guernsey), printed on tomato-packing paper. The newssheet was produced between 1942 and 1944 at great personal risk. Five islanders were sent to prisons in Germany for distributing the paper, where two died.

That some have given up their lives to report the truth shows how deeply the need for a trustworthy and truthful news lies within us.

Guardian's computers smashed

Hard-drives-guardian

Smashed hard drives used by The Guardian to store Edward Snowden’s hard files © Guardian News & Media Ltd 2021

The dividing line between what is in the public interest and what is of interest to the public has been long argued over. In 2013, American National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked classified information to journalists. The resulting stories alerted the world to civilian surveillance and breaches of privacy by the US and its allies. It was also argued that it impeded defence operations and put lives at risk.

This computer was one of those used by The Guardian newspaper to store the leaked material. It was destroyed by Guardian staff, under the supervision of British security services. It was a purely symbolic act, however. The data had already been shared.

#BlackLivesMatter

Black Lives Matter display in Breaking the News exhibition

#BlackLivesMatter display from the Breaking the News exhibition

One part of the exhibition focusses on the power of language, as wielded by the news. Language is never neutral, and words of a news headline can powerful sway opinion. But who do we mean by ‘the news’? In a digital world, anyone can contribute to what the news might mean, if they get their language right.

There may be no more powerful tool in today’s news world than the hashtag. A carefully chosen hashtag can encapsulate a strong message, link posts on a topic together, and amplify content across social media. #BlackLivesMatter, both a phrase and a movement, formed in 2013. For the exhibition we have created a striking display of images used in Instagram and Twitter posts that used hashtag to put the injustices experienced by Black British people often ignored by mainstream media back into the news.

It asks the question, who makes the news? And the answer may be – us.

We hope that you will be able to visit the exhibition, which runs until 21 August 21, if not in London then at one of over 30 pop-up displays at public libraries across the UK, via the Living Knowledge Network. There is an accompanying programme of events at the Library and online, and the exhibition book, Breaking the News: 500 Years of News in Britain, edited by Jackie Harrison and Luke McKernan.

Buy tickets to Breaking the News now.

31 March 2022

Visualising Victorian News

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

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.

Links:

 

21 February 2022

Breaking the News on tour

The British Library’s Breaking the News exhibition opens at our London site on 22 April. Running in parallel with this will be pop-up displays at over 30 public libraries across the UK, via the Living Knowledge Network (LKN). As well as highlighting a selection of key British Library news objects, 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 logo

 

The pop-up displays will feature graphics and text that investigate a variety of key news stories from 500 years of the news in Britain. Each tells us something different about how the news is made, and why the news matters. 

The LKN will launch the season of news on Thursday 24 February with a live-streamed event and discussion panel at Leeds Central Library. At the launch, Channel 4 newsreader Fatima Manji, James Mitchinson of the Yorkshire Post, artist and activist Rachel Horne, and former reporter Roger Lytollis will take part in a discussion exploring the regional news landscape, and how we all have a voice to tell our own stories and influence the bigger picture.

To book tickets to the event or to watch on our platform (online) live or within 48 hours on catch up, please visit: https://www.bl.uk/events/breaking-the-news-the-launch-debate

For information on what online events are being lined up for Breaking the News around the country,  visit https://living-knowledge-network.co.uk or follow the announcement on Twitter via https://twitter.com/LKN_Libraries.

For a map of all libraries in the LKN network, see https://www.bl.uk/living-knowledge-network/partner-libraries

Tamara Tubb

08 December 2021

Breaking news on Breaking the News

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

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

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

05 May 2021

The US 2020 election broadcast archive

As Joe Biden has now passed his first 100 days as the 46th President of the United States of America, it is time to reflect on the broadcasts of the US presidential election archived by the British Library. 2020 thrust upon us a global pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, the final months before the UK left the European Union, plus a Presidential election in America like no other. In 2016, the Library’s Broadcast News service archived the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President, continuing to collect broadcasts dealing with his presidency over the following four years. The 2020 US Presidential election was certain to be an interesting one, with an incumbent President with a background outside of politics versus a career politician who was a former Vice President.

Frame still from CNN Final Presidential Debate 22 October 2020

CNN Final Presidential Debate, 23 October 2020

The run-up

The Democratic nomination debates were recorded for the Library’s Broadcast News service with extensive coverage by CNN and the debates covered by many of the world’s broadcasters in their news programmes.  All was going as expected … and then the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world.

This meant that Broadcast News was now being run from a curator’s spare bedroom, rather than from the British Library’s News, Radio and Moving Image area at our St Pancras site. The Coronavirus not only made adapting to new working conditions tricky for Broadcast News, but it also made politicians across the globe develop strategies and legislature to deal with a pandemic.

In the US, President Trump’s handling of the pandemic had attracted much news coverage throughout the year. His press briefings as part of the White House Task Force we captured from CNN coverage, albeit with the problem of no regularly scheduled time and sometimes patchy coverage. A trawl around other news organisations covered by Broadcast News resulted in finding fuller broadcasts of the briefings on Turkey’s TRT World, Sky News and the BBC. On many occasions CNN sometimes only broadcast the questions taken after the speeches were made, whereas TRT World and Russia’s RT would only show the speech itself. Plenty of documentaries were broadcast covering Donald Trump’s four years as President. These were also archived for Broadcast News, originating from stations across the world that that are licensed to broadcast in the UK.

This was all good preparation for the run up to the election itself. First there would be three Presidential debates. The initial one, on 29 September 2020, was a strange one, to put it mildly. CNN had full coverage, so their programming was duly archived. However, the combative manner of the debate, with Trump’s interruptions and responses in particular, triggered worldwide interest in how the debate was conducted. Breakfast news programming from Britain’s main news networks, the BBC, ITV, and Sky were recorded to show the post-debate analysis for each channel, to avoid bias. The major news programmes from China’s CGTN, RT, Al Jazeera, Japan’s NHK World, France 24 and TRT World, also gave their judgement, and that was also recorded.

Then the President caught COVID-19. His rallies had been noticeable for both himself, his aides and most of the crowds not wearing masks and not practicing social distancing. In contrast, his rival, Joe Biden, always wore a mask at his events and reporters and attendees were segregated. The Democratic Party’s convention was held virtually, compared to the Republican Party’s convention being held in large rallies. Both conventions’ highlights were recorded, and the key speeches were captured from live footage.

TV coverage criticized how the President was holding ‘super spreader’ events with his rallies, especially the gathering announcing the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court.

It was announced that the second presidential debate would be a virtual one, owing to the President’s diagnosis. Donald Trump rejected this idea, however, the two candidates instead taking part in separate ‘Town Hall’ events. It was impossible for CNN to show both Town Halls live, so highlights were broadcast and, again, the news broadcasts of the BBC, ITV, Sky News, Al Jazeera, CGTN and TRT World would also show clips and give their comments.

The final TV debate was held on 22 October. Both candidates attended, and this ended up as a stark contrast to the first one, resembling the civilized debate held prior to this in the debate between Vice President Mike Pence and the Democratic Party’s VP choice, Kamala Harris. Both were archived from CNN’s coverage and a balance of views was also obtained from coverage by the other news organizations.

A mixture of CNN’s coverage and that of TRT World, Sky and the BBC was captured to gain a flavour of the rallies then held in the run up to the election itself.

Frame still from TRT World America Decides 3 November 2020

TRT World, America Decides, 3 November 2020

Election day

And then election day itself came. An election like no other, with all sorts of protestations that mail-in votes would lead to a fraudulent result, and a vicious second wave of the Coronavirus in America leading to many wanting to vote without attending the polling stations on the day.

The views of both President Trump and Joe Biden about voting were made clear in the run up to the election. Late night programmes from CNN were taken in addition to CNN Newsroom (which is recorded daily) to reflect the nature of voting intentions and the candidates’ views on this. CNN had many interviews with local officials in areas that had wildly different views on voting procedures, so this was an important set of programmes to archive in order to provide researchers into this election a chance to see how America was split on this issue. Most Trump supporters would turn up to vote on the day, many rejecting wearing a mask. Most Biden supporters suggested that they would largely vote by mail, also worried that voting on the day might bring intimidatory tactics from right-wing extremist supporters.

Early voting in some states also took place and scenes of day long queueing, and interviews given whilst waiting in line, were also recorded from CNN sources and other broadcasters.

It was decided to take all night coverage of election day itself from several stations to reflect balance in the views of the presenters. CNN, BBC, ITV, and Sky were chosen, and CGTN, Al Jazeera and TRT World were also recorded after polls closed giving their initial reactions to the results. However, there was no clear result and the election coverage continued over the next week.

It was decided to take all of CNN’s coverage throughout each day until a winner was declared. CNN had received good press reviews for their coverage (known on social media as ‘The Map Programme’), and this was complemented by coverage of key state declarations and updates from the BBC, Sky, ITV and Broadcast News’ overseas stations in Turkey, China, Japan, the Middle East, France, Nigeria and Russia. There were many documentaries about both President Trump and Joe Biden broadcast across many channels in the run up to, and during, the election. These were also archived.

Our broadcast archive of election day featured radio as well. The coverage from BBC Radio 4, BBC 5 Live, BBC World Service, LBC, TalkRADIO and Monocle 24 was all archived for our National Radio Archive pilot. This also included Siren Radio, a small community station set up in Lincoln University. They apologised for not having live coverage due to the station being closed due to the lockdown. Yet, they were able to record 20-minute interviews with professors in the US, political commentators in Washington and talk to American Studies students, who were watching the election. They returned to get their thoughts in the aftermath of the election one week on.

Bradford Community Broadcasting schedules the current affairs programme ‘Democracy Now!’ each day. This is a syndicated programme based in New York and has proved to be invaluable in covering the pandemic and the lead up to the election. Its coverage of voting and the aftermath of the election is helped by access to big names linked to social commentary and research, and the hour-long programme is a valuable resource into what life is like in America using first-hand accounts.

Frame still from ITV News 6 January 2021 with reporter Robert Moore at the Capitol

ITV News, 6 January 2021, with reporter Robert Moore at the Capitol

Aftermath

Finally, on November 7, Joe Biden was declared the winner. Again, TV coverage of the result was archived from the same sources. At this point the 24-hour coverage from CNN was halted and regular recordings of CNN Newsroom would report on the situation from then on.

Of course, that was not the end of the matter. President Trump issued lawsuits to recount or reject votes where he claimed that the voting had been illegal and refused to concede. His chief lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, held a bizarre press conference at the parking lot of the ‘Four Seasons Total Landscaping’ store in Philadelphia, a business located near a sex shop and a crematorium. Coverage of that was not covered live by CNN, but was by Sky News, with an amused Adam Boulton puzzling over the peculiar location.

With President Trump still refusing to accept his defeat, continually claiming that it was a fraudulent election, Georgia had its state runoff in early January. A run-off election was called because no candidate in the Senate election had enough votes to clear the state mandated percentage for a clear win. This meant that with two Senate seats at stake, and the US Senate majority for the Republican Party at risk, more campaigning by the two parties began again. All major rallies and speeches were again captured from CNN, TRT World, BBC, ITV and Sky. The election day itself was captured in full via CNN. With the lead changing hands throughout the night, it was a tense affair. Finally, both seats were won by the Democrats, meaning that they would now hold the majority in the Senate.

But this was not the end of the matter. One month later, America was rocked by an event that shook its democracy to its foundations. With the College Electoral Vote due to be ratified by Congress on the 6 January 2021, President Trump held a rally in Washington, where he and several key speakers once more condemned the validity of the election and its outcome and incited his followers to take action. The speech by President Trump and coverage of the rally was again archived from CNN broadcasts and other news outlets around the world.

What followed next was unprecedented in American history. A large group of Trump supporters forced their way into the Capitol building in Washington DC as the Senate was in session. CNN was covering the Electoral Vote session and this coverage continued as the rioters entered the building. The world’s news networks soon started following the events live. Broadcast News has the coverage of CNN, BBC News, Sky, TRT World and Al Jazeera. ITV’s coverage was particularly enlightening, as their reporter, Robert Moore was able to talk to the protesters as they entered the building and even within it. Euronews covered the event from their studio, but their coverage included up to the minute reaction on social media from world leaders and senior politicians. The subsequent Impeachment of President Trump for a second time was also captured by CNN and all major news stations also covered the session in the Senate in depth.

The Inauguration of the new president happened without the out-going President in attendance. His final message as President was recorded for the archives, and full coverage of the Inauguration of Joe Biden taken from the coverage of CNN, BBC, ITV, Sky, TRT World and Al Jazeera. Kamela Harris becoming the first woman to become Vice President, and the first black person to achieve that office, also allowed some of the stations to reflect on the historic aspect of the day. Amanda Gorman became the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration, reading her poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’. The British Library has a direct connection with Amanda as she is a 2020 Eccles Fellow (one of the awards offered by the Eccles Centre for American Studies).

A huge amount of coverage of this historic chapter in American history is now archived as TV and radio coverage. With 2020 and 2021 being significant for a global pandemic, the US election could have been a sideshow. The material archived by Broadcast News and the National Radio Archive will show researchers in the future, just how extraordinary this moment in history was.

Neil McCowlen, Broadcast Recordings Curator

Broadcast News is available in all British Library reading rooms

24 March 2021

Researching short-lived newspapers

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

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.