This is not an advertisement or a paid-for editorial. It is part of my #HonestReview series. I have used the British Newspaper Archive nearly every day since I subscribed.
If you are a lover of history or currently researching your ancestry, working on a research project for a degree or you may even be interested in writing a non-fiction book, then The British Newspaper Archive is one of the most useful tools available. It has proved invaluable to me as a writer and what is even more remarkable, is that few people are aware of its existence.
The archive was established in November 2011 with access to over one million pages of pre-20th century newspapers. There are now something in excess of thirty-five million pages of newspapers online with more newspapers being added daily.
In the past researchers would have had to journey to their local libraries or even the British library to go through manual searches of hard copies or microfilm of newspapers before being able to view them. However, now they are able to search the archive in their own home. This is particularly useful when just checking a reference point or a date. It is now possible to search hundreds of millions of articles by keyword, name, location, date or title and results appear in an instant.
Among the collections are the Thomason Tracts, containing over seven thousand newspapers dating from the Seventeenth Century and the Burney Collection, featuring nearly a million pages of newspapers from the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century.
The British Newspaper Archive is incredibly easy to use and you can use it to look at;
News Articles – read about national events, as well as issues of local and regional importance. Study daily life within a time period.
Family Notices – search for your family’s birth, marriage and death notices plus related announcements including engagements, anniversaries, birthdays and congratulations.
Letters – read letters to the editor written by the newspaper’s readers, including contemporary debates, aspirations and anxieties.
Obituaries – view a wealth of contemporary information on the lives of notable individuals and ancestors.
Advertisements – these include classifieds, shipping notices and appointments.
As well as articles, the search facility further enables the subscriber to search for photographs, illustrations, engravings, graphics, maps and editorial cartoons. Searches can be saved and images downloaded. One of the really strong points of the archive is that it is possible to see photographs that have not been seen for many years, many of which are not even available on Google.
In order to establish the archive, thousands of digital images were scanned each day from original bound newspaper pages, as well as microfilm. Being able to access the original bound volumes of newspapers ensured that some of the rarest and most fragile newspapers in the collection could be scanned. There were many initial criticisms of the service, but I think that they have listened to the customer and have worked to rectify these initial teething troubles.
Some publications I have really enjoyed studying have included The Tatler, The Illustrated London News and The Sphere.
It costs about £13 a month to subscribe or about £80 annually. For me it really has been well worth the money, as I used it every day whilst writing my book. I can not recommend it enough.
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