December 2011 No.79  
   In this issue

British India, convicts, Dayak and Hong Kong


The British Library and online publisher brightsolid have launched a website that will transform the way that people use historical newspapers to find out about the past. The British Newspaper Archive website will offer access to up to 4 million fully searchable pages, featuring more than 200 newspaper titles from every part of the UK and Ireland. The newspapers – which mainly date from the 19th century, but which include runs dating back to the first half of the 18th century – cover every aspect of local, regional and national news. The archive is here.

Highlights include: Exhaustive coverage of crime and punishment – from infamous murder trials to stories of women and children transported to Australia for the most minor thefts (in one case, seven years transportation for the theft of seven cups and five saucers); Eyewitness accounts of social transformation – newspaper reports, commentary and letters to the editor on topics ranging from the railway mania of the mid-19th century to the extraordinary expansion of the temperance movement; Illustrations and advertisements – the aspirations and anxieties of the time laid bare in searchable ads and classifieds, peddling everything from the latest fashion to miracle cures for baldness and venereal disease.

Alongside first-hand accounts of historic events such as the wedding of Victoria and Albert and the Charge of the Light Brigade, these newspapers also provide countless vivid details of how our ancestors lived and died, how they went up and down in the world and how they fed, clothed and entertained themselves. Coverage of the British Empire is also exhaustive. British India, Malaya, Hong Kong and elsewhere were routinely reported by national and provincial newspapers.

“The launch of the British Newspaper Archive website opens up the British Library’s newspaper collection as never before,” said Ed King, the British Library’s Head of Newspapers. “Rather than having to view the items on-site at the Library, turning each page, people across the UK and around the world will be able to explore for themselves the gold-mine of stories and information contained in these pages – and the ability to search across millions of articles will yield results for each user, that might previously have been the work of weeks or months, in a matter of seconds and the click of a mouse.”

The British Newspaper Archive is the result of a ten-year partnership between the British Library and brightsolid, announced in May 2010. Over the past 12 months, brightsolid’s digitisation team, based at the British Library Newspaper Library at Colindale, has been digitising up to 8,000 pages of historic newspapers every working day. The project is expected to scan up to 40 million newspaper pages over the next ten years.

To date the project has concentrated on out-of-copyright material pre-dating 1900, but brightsolid is negotiating with a number of rightsholders to obtain permission to digitise a range of more recent newspaper runs from the early to mid-20th century. The site will continue to grow as newly-scanned pages are uploaded.

The British Newspaper Archive is free to search. To view the content in a newspaper page image, there is a choice of time-limited PPV (Pay Per View) or subscription packages. There are two PPV options available: the GBP6.95 package that lasts for 48 hours, and the GBP29.95 package that lasts for 30 days. The subscription package is priced GBP79.95 for one year.

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