The Newsroom blog

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


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

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


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.

07 March 2021

Identifying dancing dogs

The mass digitisation of historic newspapers has had a huge effect on many areas of research. Theories have been confirmed or overturned, new discoveries are made daily, evidence is available in abundance. One area in which digitised newspapers have had a marked effect is film studies. In this guest post, film and theatre historian Barry Anthony describes the use of newspapers by early film historians twenty years ago and how things have changed today.

Frame still from 1895 dancing dog film

Frame still from 1895 film known as Dancing Dog (National Fairground and Circus Archive)

In 2009 the National Fairground and Circus Archive received an exciting donation. The George Williams collection was a hoard of fragile nitrate films dating back to the last decade of the 19th century. Several had been made for Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope peepshow, a device that revealed 40 second motion pictures to individual customers about a year before the first projectors introduced the cinema experience to mass audiences. Some subjects had been shot at Edison’s New Jersey studio, but others were among the earliest known British films. Dating from 1895, they depicted actors dressed as a sailor and a policeman detaining a criminal; a moderately sized kangaroo sparring with a small boy; and an animal trainer presiding over a display of talented dancing dogs. They had been filmed with a camera developed by electrical engineer Robert Paul and photographic expert Birt Acres (the individual contribution made by each man remaining a source of some controversy). Given a dearth of information about this earliest period of British filmmaking it seemed unlikely that the participants in these productions, particularly the cavorting canines, would ever be identified.

Eight years later, in The Kinetoscope; a British History, the late Dr Richard Brown and myself told, for the first time, the story of the device’s exploitation in the UK. It was a detailed account which would not have been possible without the research possibilities made available by the British Newspaper Archive. Back in 1999 we had produced A Victorian Film Enterprise a thorough examination of the massively financed and highly prestigious British Mutoscope and Biograph Company. In the time before the digitisation of newspapers and other archival material, much of the research required for the book entailed numerous visits to newspaper archives. Countless hours were spent poring over the contents of dusty bound volumes or straining our eyes in front of flickering microfilm reader screens. It was a process analogous to mining, tunnelling onward through page after page in the hope of unearthing nuggets of relevant material.

Richard and I were both experienced researchers and had a few short cuts which we could employ. But this in itself was problematical. The book aimed to place British Biograph in a broad historical context, looking at the economic, social, and aesthetic aspects of its development and exploitation. In concentrating our searches on periodicals dedicated to entertainment (itself a massive task) we located much detail about the company but missed a wider and more diffuse range of comments in other publications. Our attempts to cope with these tangential areas were of necessity far more selective. A case in point concerned the company’s peepshow machine. Whilst Biograph films shown to audiences at music halls and other venues were usually impressive views of news events or foreign scenery, the Mutoscope viewer lived up to its ‘What the Butler Saw’ nickname by offering sexually titillating material. Across the country there were howls of indignation as hundreds of cast-iron mutoscopes were installed in arcades, railway stations, shops, and seaside promenades. Such scandalised protests were, of course, recorded by provincial newspapers with the details of offending subjects carefully noted. Faced with reports scattered across many local publications it became extremely difficult to locate sufficient material to be able to accurately assess the scope of public concern about an important feature of British Biograph’s exhibition policy. Had we possessed the online search facility later provided by BNA, merely entering the titles ‘Why Marie Blew Out the Light’ or ‘Should Ladies Wear Bloomers?’ would have provided a universal view of the controversy.

Mutoscope and Sheffield Evening Telegraph newspaper article

A mutoscope and a denunciation from the Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 16 August 1899

To assemble a chronology of Biograph exhibitions outside London, we were fortunate that entertainment periodicals such as The EraThe Music Hall and Theatre Review, and The Stage usually listed the content of music-hall shows throughout the UK. It took weeks to search a six-year period, leaving us with an end result that was extensive, but not exhaustive. A similar chronology of exhibitions in The Kinetoscope was more complex because, unlike the Biograph projector, the device was not owned by a single company. Despite the involvement of many showmen often pursuing diverse exhibition practices, the Kinetoscope listing proved easier to assemble. The simple process of searching ‘Kinetoscope’ (and other spelling variants) on the BNA resulted in a virtually day-by-day record of exhibitions during the period 1894-1895. For the first time it was possible to establish that a large part of the population had its first exposure to motion pictures months before the introduction of projected films. Reviews and advertisements in local newspapers enabled several previously unknown exhibitors to be identified by name and their progress around the UK traced. Venues ranging from rowdy country fairs to genteel church bazaars were established; together with numbers of machines employed, durations of stay and prices charged. By following up on the further keywords revealed, it quickly became possible to present a rounded picture of a previously unrevealed (and largely unexpected) chapter of British entertainment history.

An analysis of the films mentioned in newspaper reports show that the overwhelming majority were American subjects issued by Edison. The limited number of films that were produced by Acres and Paul during their brief, bitter association (about 20 subjects) was reflected by very few references in the press. Some titles are known by a series of adverts that Paul (without crediting Acres) placed in The Era in April and May 1895 ‒ Oxford and Cambridge Boat RacePickpocket ArrestRailway Station SceneBootblack Scene and others described only as by ‘Sundry Performers’. Returning to the films donated to the National Fairground and Circus Archive, it was possible to recognise Pickpocket Arrest from the Era adverts. The lively contest between boy and marsupial could also be identified from another 1895 advert, The Boxing Kangaroo published in The English Mechanic (a periodical sadly not yet digitised by BNA). But those dancing dogs were elusive, with no references found in 1895 although the nature of the film clearly indicated that it was a product of the Acres/Paul association. The challenge of finding out more about the film took on a disproportionate importance, a test of our own research capabilities and the comprehensiveness of original sources. We examined accounts of various troupes of performing dogs (amazingly popular in the 1890s); looked at circuses appearing in the London area; and, of course, scrutinised the BNA for any possible clues. Eventually we hit our publication deadline and our search was abandoned.

Wharfdale and Airedale Observer newspaper article and a Kinetoscope

Report from the Wharfdale and Airedale Observer for 10 January 1896, and a Kinetoscope

Following Richard’s death in 2020 I decided to resume the hunt. Altering the BNA search parameters very slightly, things suddenly became clear. In a description of a New Year Conversazione held at Saltaire in West Yorkshire, the Wharfdale and Airedale Observer for 10 January 1896 reported that ‘the Kinetoscopes give excellent illustrations of last year’s Derby race, a performance by Lorenzo’s skipping dogs (recently exhibited at the Royal Aquarium, London, where the photograph was taken), etc.’ A further search soon revealed that ‘Professor’ Lorenzo was a noted trainer whose troupe consisted of dogs, ‘Educated’ ponies, goats, and monkeys. One of his top turns was a boxing kangaroo who fought against a boy billed as ‘Young England’. It was an inconsequential discovery, but one which demonstrated the scope and potential of the BNA. We had gone from building a detailed, multi-layered picture of the earliest years of moving pictures to revealing a single music-hall act that had played a minor part in their development. Identifying an entertainment industry in the making or a group of dancing (or skipping) dogs – all had become one.

Barry Anthony


Barry Anthony is the co-author (with Richard Brown) of A Victorian Film Enterprise: The History of the British Mutoscope and Biograph Company, 1897-1915 (1999) and The Kinetoscope: A British History (2017). His other works include The King's Jester: The Life of Dan Leno, Victorian Comic Genius (2010); Chaplin's Music Hall: The Chaplins and their Circle in the Limelight (2012) and Murder, Mayhem and Music Hall: The Dark Side of Victorian London (2015). There is information on the George Williams Collection at the National Fairground and Circus Archive at

12 November 2020

Collaborative Doctoral Partnership

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:

The application deadline is 5 pm on Friday 18 December 2020.

07 September 2020

The news from Leeds

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.


11 June 2020

Mapping Irish women's football

This is a guest post from Helena Byrne, Web Archivist at the British Library and a member of  The Football Collective,  a dedicated network of people who wish to bring critical debate to football.


The Irish Ladies XI, The Northern Whig and Belfast Post, 5 August 1932, via British Newspaper Archive

This is a call for all football historians that may have come across references to Irish women’s football of any code prior to and including 1973. When this project first started in January 2019 it was commonly believed that women’s football governing bodies were established in Ireland from 1973 onwards. However, as there is little known about the history and development of women’s football in Ireland it was only recently established in academic spheres that the first women’s football governing body was the Northern Irish Ladies Football Association (NILFA). The NILFA was recognised by the Women’s Football Association (WFA) in December 1972 just a few months before the Ladies Football Association of Ireland (LFA) in 1973 (possibly February) (WFA Archive, British Library MS 89306/1/3).

Although some involved in organising women’s football were aware that the NILFA, which a short time later switched out ladies for women, were established in 1972 the Irish Football Association (IFA) have their founding date as 26 November 1976. This is not surprising as the voluntary nature of women’s football would have meant that many of the original founding members may have only been around for a few years. In addition, there could have been a break in play due to The Troubles as 1972 was one of the bloodiest years on record. 

This project is calling on the crowd to share any newspaper references they may have come across prior to and including 1973.


France v Irish eleven at Grosvenor Park, Belfast, Belfast News-Letter, 12 August 1936, via British Newspaper Archive

How to get involved

You can nominate the newspaper references you have here:

Originally the nomination form was due to run for six months, then this was extended for a further six months.  However, the project has gathered over two hundred nominations so far and there are many more independent researchers and academics uncovering news clippings about Irish women’s football, that it was felt that the collection period should stay open until further notice.

How the data will be shared

Each newspaper reference will be marked on the map with the details supplied by the nominator and will include the name of the person(s) who nominated that reference. The raw data of nominations up until June 2019 can be viewed here.

After online form closes the data will be cleaned up and deposited with News collections at the British Library. The data will be published as an open source data set that can be accessed by anyone interested in women’s football history.

What to nominate

We are interested in any references to women’s football or female involvement in men’s football on the island of Ireland from any newspaper even if it was published outside Ireland. This includes women attending football matches, being involved in the running of a team as well as playing any code of football such as soccer or Gaelic etc.


It is hoped that this project will start a conversation amongst researchers interested in Irish sports to do more to document the history and development of women’s football. Women’s football of any code only started to become popular in Ireland from the mid 1960’s onwards, but very little is known of what went before. By collaborating through this public form, we can start to piece together the knowledge that exists within the research community and identify where the gaps in our knowledge lie.

Helena Byrne

A version of this post was first published on the Football Collective website

20 May 2020

Three favourite newspaper books - chosen by Steve Tate

We are publishing a series of posts on favourite books about newspapers. We have asked members of the British Library's news collection team and some outside experts each to name three books about newspapers that they treasure and would recommend to others. The books can be wholly or partly about newspapers, they can be fact or fiction, they can be familiar or unfamiliar. No book can be picked twice, and no one taking part can choose one of their own books.

We hope readers will enjoy the series and seek out some of the recommendations. The choices below have been made by Dr Stephen Tate, Blackburn College University Centre.

Catling200My Life’s Pilgrimage, Thomas Catling. London. John Murray, 1911.

The recollections of Thomas Catling provide a welcome insight regarding the practicalities of nineteenth-century newspaper journalism. Catling spent most of his working life on Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper in London, rising from compositor to editor. He joined the Sunday newspaper in 1854 and retired in 1906. It is a book with a rich seam of enlightening anecdote and opinion.

All three books in my selection are memoirs of newspaper journalists. They would not have been published had the authors not tasted success. But all three experienced work at the humdrum level of journalism before talent and luck saw their careers advance. In my endeavour to rescue the world of the workaday reporter from a surprising neglect in contemporary press historiography, books like Catling’s have opened up avenues of research and moments of understanding.

The author touches upon the pounds, shillings and pence of his trade; the career path from composing case to the editorial room; the role of the sub-editor; the interaction of the press with the worlds of theatre, fiction-writing, the law and politics; the mechanics of production; the practicalities of reporting crime; edition structures. The narrative is piecemeal, discursive, meandering . . . but there are dates, names, events and situations. What a feast!

Watson200Memoirs of Robert Patrick Watson: A Journalist’s Experience of Mixed Society, Robert P Watson. London. Smith, Ainslie and Co, 1899.

For a historian researching the trade of the sporting journalist, the above title offers few clues as to its worth. But its 500 pages are packed with detail outlining the at times rambunctious, disorderly world of sport in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Watson was born in 1848 and the book covers his reporting assignments for Sporting Life, Bell’s Life in London, Sportsman and Sunday Referee, covering pugilism, pedestrianism, water sports, wrestling, cycling, billiards, endurance feats and much else besides. His dalliance with sports periodical proprietorship is also covered.

Watson worked at a time when the reporter was often called upon to act as referee and stake-money holder in prize contests and he foregrounds his role as event judge and occasional organiser, nowhere hinting at any pride in writing style or journalistic prestige. For the author and his paymasters the role of reporter is subsidiary. It is an unwitting testimony to the uncertain status of the sports reporter before the adoption by the cheap popular press of codified team games as part of its editorial agenda.

Macadam200The Macadam Road, John Macadam. London. Sportsmans Book Club, 1957 (originally published London. Jarrolds, 1955.)

This is a fragmented, anecdotal stroll through the author’s career as Greenock shipyard apprentice, provincial newspaper telephone boy, drama critic, sub-editor and, eventually, leading Fleet Street sports reporter. Its leitmotif is perhaps best summed up in a sense of drift through the 1920s to the 1950s and that drift captures, I think, the essence of the stories of many journalists’ working lives.

Macadam suggests his book, and thereby his career, ‘. . . goes nowhere in particular from nowhere very important’, with ‘. . . accidents and divergencies along that road’. But (despite a concluding element of whimsy) it provides a valuable understanding of how some careers take shape, together with the pinched circumstances of weekly paper existence, the happenstance of job moves and the excitement and pressure associated with the quest for sports story exclusives to fuel the national newspaper juggernaut. He describes the ‘harrowing experience’ of being among the press pack on an England football international tour, the newsmen ‘. . . watching each other like cats for fear of the unconsidered trifles of news that might have escaped their own eyes’.

Steve Tate

17 May 2020

Three favourite newspaper books - chosen by Paul Gooding

We are publishing a series of posts on favourite books about newspapers. We have asked members of the British Library's news collection team and some outside experts each to name three books about newspapers that they treasure and would recommend to others. The books can be wholly or partly about newspapers, they can be fact or fiction, they can be familiar or unfamiliar. No book can be picked twice, and no one taking part can choose one of their own books.

We hope readers will enjoy the series and seek out some of the recommendations. The choices below have been made by Dr. Paul Gooding, Lecturer in Information Studies, University of Glasgow.


Curranseaton200Power Without Responsibility: Press, Broadcasting and the Internet in Britain, James Curran and Jean Seaton, London: Routledge 2018 (8th edition)

This book borrows its title from a scathing attack on the press barons Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Rothermere, by then leader of the opposition Stanley Baldwin in 1931. I think it’s fair to say that these polemical undertones permeate a book that serves two valuable purposes. First, it provides a wide-ranging history of the press and broadcasting in Britain from around 1800 to the present day. Second, it provides a series of proposals for the reform of the contemporary institutions of the press. The value of these complementary parts is underlined by the fact that the book is now in its eighth edition and translated into several languages.

That said, the part that still chimes with me is the way that Curran and Seaton force us to reconsider not just the institutions of the press since the digital turn, but our own thinking around the underlying technologies. Vincent Mosco described technologies as entering a state of “powerful banality” – here, the authors describe the awe-struck state that is expressed by our continuing capitalisation of the Internet, and the impact that this wonderment has upon our ability to effectively critique its related institutions and technologies.


DeeganTransferred Illusions: Digital Technology and the Forms of Print, Marilyn Deegan and Kathryn Sutherland, Farnham: Ashgate 2009.

Deegan and Sutherland write at length about the pasts, present and future of historical newspapers, but in reality the scope of the book is much broader. It explores the forms and institutions of print, and it spans newspapers, books, publishers and libraries. Each of these is considered through the lens of large-scale digitisation of library collections, allowing the authors to explore how digital remediation redefines our interaction with the diverse forms of print.

What really stood out for me is that this is a book written by, and for, scholars and practitioners of information, and the links it draws between the material history of forms such as historical newspapers and the curatorial decision involved in contemporary digitisation practice. It recognises the way that digitisation recovers the textual legacy of materials such as historical newspapers, while also providing an account of the ways in which the resultant digital facsimiles reformulate those texts. In short; come for the chapters on the nineteenth century press, stay for the interventions into digitisation theory and practice.


Truth200The Truth, Terry Pratchett, London: Doubleday, 2000

I’m generally of the view that most lists of book recommendations can be improved with a liberal dose of Terry Pratchett, and the world of newspapers is no different. The Truth tells the story of William de Worde, a professional scribe and exiled son of nobility, who inadvertently creates and becomes the editor of the Ankh Morpork Times, the first newspaper in the Discworld’s history. It’s a tale of investigative journalism in the highest echelons of society, of the challenges of speaking truth to power, and of a vampire photographer who turns to dust whenever he uses the flash.

Pratchett’s books became increasingly satirical throughout his career, using fantasy to shine a light on the social and political hierarchies of our world. The Truth explores the challenges posed by those who try to hold the powerful to account, in the face of a printing press characterised as a beast that is constantly, terrifyingly hungry for words. Pratchett’s understanding of the human condition means that so much of his writing remains relevant: right now, as we process the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on our lives, the misspelt motto of the Ankh Morpork Times is particularly pertinent: “The Truth Shall Make Ye Fret.”

Paul Gooding

11 May 2020

Three favourite newspaper books - chosen by Ed King

We are publishing a series of posts on favourite books about newspapers. We have asked members of the British Library's news collection team and some outside experts each to name three books about newspapers that they treasure and would recommend to others. The books can be wholly or partly about newspapers, they can be fact or fiction, they can be familiar or unfamiliar. No book can be picked twice, and no one taking part can choose one of their own books.

We hope readers will enjoy the series and seek out some of the recommendations. The choices below have been made by Ed King, former Head of Newspapers at the British Library.

Hamilton200Editor-in-Chief. The Fleet Street Memoirs of Sir Denis Hamilton. Denis Hamilton. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1989.

Denis Hamilton trained as a journalist before war broke out in 1939. It was his war service that gave him a lifetime’s experience in six years. Demobbing as a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1946, he had the good fortune to be recruited as a personal assistant to Lord Kemsley, the owner of the largest group of newspapers in the UK at that time, including The Sunday Times. He made himself indispensable, re-vitalising The Sunday Times in the process. He showed formidable courage and negotiating skills when Kemsley sold the newspaper group in 1959 to Roy Thomson, securing contracts for himself and key colleagues. When the sale of The Times and The Sunday Times to Rupert Murdoch was forced by disputes with print unions, Hamilton knew he could not work for Robert Murdoch, and resigned in 1981.

In this memoir, I was struck time and again by Hamilton’s great capacities: for dealing with people successfully, for being able to take criticism, for delegating work and responsibilities, for learning, for sustained hard work, for seizing the moment, for his incorruptibility. Above all, he had the (constantly exercised) ability to reflect on gaps in the newspaper market, to think ahead, to plan a campaign of action for the future. For many years, Fleet Street was a sufficiently large canvas for his abilities to show at their best.


Griffiths200Fleet Street. Five Hundred Years of the Press. Dennis Griffiths. London: British Library, 2006.

Dennis Griffiths was well qualified to undertake this subject, having himself spent a lifetime in printing and newspaper publishing, achieving the status of production director for the Express Newspapers group. We are swept along across the centuries. The profit motive has always been present: without it, newspapers will fail. Publishers/ owners never had time for those who failed to last. So, perhaps inevitably, it is the proprietors/ owners, or publishers, or editors who capture the most attention, for their outstanding qualities were often the difference between success and failure. Thirteen chapters out of the twenty-one in all are devoted to events of the twentieth century. However, the main features of the London newspaper scene were laid out by the 1780s, with London being served by nine daily newspapers, with ten more appearing twice or three times a week, and one evening newspaper being started in 1788 – The Star and Evening Advertiser.

Griffiths enumerates many new titles established, from 1800, onwards, and whilst London titles predominate in the Index, he mentions successful provincial newspapers as well. He charts the move towards greater, more rapid penetration of sales throughout the UK, which gathered pace from the 1890s. Chapter 21, ‘The Electronic Future’, is devoted to new Technology. It offers plenty of examples of change driven by the development of the world wide web. Griffiths believes that the value of quality journalism will remain, but may be diluted by the myriad of outlets that can create news. The internet has much greater potential to enable a small number of businesses to dominate the provision of any information, including ‘the news’. Whatever happens, the phenomenon that was Fleet Street has passed into history.


Cranfield200The Development of the Provincial Newspaper 1700-1760. G.A. Cranfield Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962.

For anyone interested in eighteenth century studies, this book, published in 1962, remains an absorbing one. The justification for the work was simple: ‘there was no country newspaper in existence in the year 1700; but by the end of 1760, no less than one hundred and thirty different newspapers had been started…’ Cranfield covers the growth, the development of provincial newspapers, together with analysis on their content, the nature of their circulation, and of their distribution. At the end of chapter 8, ‘Circulation’, Cranfield summarises the influence of provincial newspapers: ‘ All too often, it was the only printed matter that was available to its readers, and was something to be read, and re-read, discussed and argued over, passed from hand to hand, and finally carefully preserved and bound into annual volumes. In the process many people who could not afford a paper and who perhaps could not read, would become acquainted with its contents.’ Chapter 10 on Advertisements takes us into the lives of the advertisers: tradesmen, quack doctors, sales by auction, property and many more. Although not much local news was reported in newspapers, the advertisements offer us real insights as to what sellers locally thought buyers wanted, by way of material comforts. Chapter 12 ‘Maturity’ discusses the role of provincial newspapers in forming opinion about national events, bringing as they did information from London on a regular basis, they assisted people to think in a similar way.


Ed King

07 May 2020

Three favourite newspaper books - chosen by Nick Foggo

We are publishing a series of posts on favourite books about newspapers. We have asked members of the British Library's news collection team and some outside experts each to name three books about newspapers that they treasure and would recommend to others. The books can be wholly or partly about newspapers, they can be fact or fiction, they can be familiar or unfamiliar. No book can be picked twice, and no one taking part can choose one of their own books.

We hope readers will enjoy the series and seek out some of the recommendations.  The choices below have been made by Dr Nick Foggo of the University of Liverpool.

FrostReminiscences of a Country Journalist, Thomas Frost, London: Ward and Downey, 1886

I’ve chosen to begin with what was probably the first book I read about the newspaper world. Serendipitously, it was both informative and, unlike so many Victorian memoirs, a good read. What makes this book (and my other choices) stand out is the humanity of the author, Thomas Frost (1821-1908). Dry and self-aggrandising works by distinguished proprietors and editors abound, but here we have the voice of a middling journalist, who spent =iomost of his working life trying to make ends meet. He achieved little, if anything, of lasting impact in the news business and was never a household name but it would be unfair to characterise him as a hack or penny-a-liner. He occupied the middle ground, populated by large numbers  of fallible journalists, who fed the newspapers with their staple commodity – reports of events and speeches, sometimes  filled out with leaders and commentaries. Frost worked up and down the country as employment opportunities permitted. His unwavering commitment to Chartism will not have helped his prospects for advancement when the press was dominated by Liberal and Conservative proprietors.


SessionHistory of the Session 1852-3, Edward Michael Whitty, London: Chapman, 1854 [Google Books].

The author of this anthology of innovative parliamentary journalism, Edward Whitty (1827-1860),  was an enfant terrible of the mid-19th century, whose fervour and family misfortunes led him to an early, alcohol-fuelled death abroad. His Irish-born father, Michael James Whitty, proprietor of the Liverpool Journal, sent him to London in 1846 to learn parliamentary reporting with The Times and also write for the Journal. The young Whitty was both an Irish nationalist and a follower of his father’s patron, the parliamentary reformer Sir Joshua Walmsley. It was always likely that he would see the Imperial  Parliament through jaundiced eyes but not that he, more than anyone, would transform the traditional weekly summary into a genre of its own, which we recognise today as the parliamentary sketch. In this collection of articles from 1852-3, first published in The Leader and the Journal, Parliament, warts and all, is portrayed in graphic language, well-laced with incisive comments. ‘Nobody supposes, when Mr Disraeli suggests an argument, that he is hinting at his own convictions.’ This work made Whitty’s name and was soon followed by another anthology, The Governing Classes of Great Britain: Political Portraits (1854), which popularised the term ‘Governing Classes’, and a bitter, satirical novel Friends of Bohemia (1857), which laid into London society and his own stamping-ground.    


ClarkeFrom Grub Street to Fleet Street
, Bob Clarke, Brighton: Revel Barker, 2010.

This revised paperback edition is everything public history should be: affordable, knowledgeable, informative, lavishly illustrated and inspirational. The exuberance that you only really get from a lifelong collector like Bob Clarke is readily evident. What makes this broad survey of newspapers over three centuries so appealing is that it does not take the ‘Kings and Queens’ approach to history and major on the achievements of proprietors but instead serves up a wonderful diet of newspaper content. The reader soon gets a good feel for what historic newspapers looked like and what sort of news and journalism might be found in a very broad range of titles. It is gratifying to people such as myself that provincial newspapers get a lengthy chapter of their own. The book is greatly enhanced by over 50 illustrations (most, I suspect from the author’s collection) and countless meaty quotes from papers. The central portion is a particularly enjoyable examination (with appropriate comment) of perhaps the most tasty aspects of a newspaper: the advertisements, crime reporting and wars. It’s a good way to read all about it!    

Dr Nick Foggo, University of Liverpool