Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Over One Million Pages of Historical British Newspapers Free to Explore Online

 I received this from Findmypast today:


Discover history as it happened

Over one million pages of historical British newspapers free to explore online
  • Over 3.7 million pages to be made free to access by 2025 following the renewal of Findmypast and the British Library’s long-term partnership
  • Digitised and published online as part of four special British Library projects, many of the titles included have been specifically chosen to help researchers shed new light on diverse and previously underrepresented communities and their histories
  • Readers can discover contemporary reports on the struggles of the poor and working class, the daily lives of England’s mining communities, the evils of slavery, the campaign to end them and much more
Following the renewal of their long-term partnership, leading family history brand Findmypast and The British Library have pledged to make millions of historical newspaper pages free to view online.

As of today, over one million pages are now free to search and explore on both the British Newspaper Archive and Findmypast websites which will be expanded by more than 2.7 million additional free pages over the next four years.

Originally launched in 2011, Findmypast and the British Library’s partnership has delivered the most significant mass digitisation of newspapers the UK has ever seen. The British Newspaper Archive and Findmypast sites are currently home to more than 44 million fully searchable pages from over a thousand regional, national and specialty titles dating from 2009 all the way back to 1699. Its ever-expanding digital catalogue covers every corner of the British Isles as well as a number of former British territories including Canada, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Barbados and Jamaica.

Previously, this vast cultural treasure was held entirely in hard copy and microfilm, necessitating travel and hours of painstaking manual research for anyone wishing to explore its contents. Now anyone, anywhere in the world, can uncover millions of articles across hundreds of titles in just a few simple clicks.

There are currently 158 free titles on offer, dating from 1720 to 1880 and covering a diverse array of histories, locations and topics. The newspapers selected were digitized as part of four special British Library projects, including;
  • 19th Century Newspapers: a project funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee and the British Library’s first major newspaper digitisation programme
  • Heritage Made Digital newspapers: an ongoing project to transform digital access to rare and early newspapers, focusing on newspapers in a poor or unfit condition
  • Living with Machines: another ongoing project, jointly led by the 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 and using artificial intelligence tools to undertake new kinds of historical enquiry.
  • The Endangered Archives Programme: a project that facilitates the digitisation of archives around the world that are in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration
Many of the titles included have been specifically chosen to help researchers shed new light on diverse and previously underrepresented communities and their histories. Highlights from the free-to-view collection include;
  • The Barbadian (1822-1861) – a fascinating Caribbean publication that 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) – an 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) – a 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) – a famous and hugely information rich vehicle for the ideas and opinions of the great nineteenth-century radical William Cobbett
  • The Examiner (1808-1880) – a leading radical weekly, edited by Leigh Hunt, with contributors including William Hazlitt, John Keats and Percy Shelley
  • Illustrated Sporting and Theatrical News (1862-1870) – a lively, visually rich newspaper covering a wide range of sports and theatrical events, with many fine illustrations
  • The Jamaica Mercury and Kingston Weekly Advertiser (1779-1840) – a 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
  • The 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
By providing free access to key areas of this unparalleled resource, Findmypast and the British Library are offering the public unique opportunities to uncover the stories behind historical events both great and small, as they happened; transforming their understanding of both the past and the present. This detail-rich archive sees the lives of ordinary people played out in print. Readers can discover contemporary reports on the struggles of the poor and working class, the daily lives of England’s mining communities, the evils of slavery, the campaign to end them and much more.

As well as providing free access, Findmypast’s use of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and machine learning also means researching these historically significant titles is truly accessible to all, allowing users to search billions of lines of printed text by name, date, keyword or phrase, all from the comfort of their own home.

Tamsin Todd, CEO of Findmypast said: "The growth of the British Newspaper Archive over the last decade has enabled social and family historians around the world see history through the eyes of communities as they experienced it. We are delighted to have extended our partnership with the British Library, combining their unrivalled cultural archives with Findmypast’s technology and digitisation expertise so that everyone can now search and find inspiration in this rich and diverse collection."

Luke McKernan, British Library Lead Curator, News and Moving Image, said: “Our partnership with Findmypast has enabled us to transform access to the incredibly diverse collection of newspapers in our care, offering historical insight into the lives of ordinary people from communities across the British Isles and beyond. Today, we are very excited to make one million pages available online which our audiences can enjoy for free, wherever they are in the world.”

Anyone wishing to explore these titles and their contents will still need to register a free account with either Findmypast or the British Newspaper Archive before accessing, though no charge will be made for their use. Options to filter searches by “Free Access” titles only are available on both sites.


Disclosure: I have a complimentary subscription to Findmypast, and have accepted meals and services from Findmypast, as a Findmypast Ambassador. This has not affected my objectivity relative to Findmypast and its products.

Copyright (c) 2021, Randall J. Seaver

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1 comment:

Kathryn said...

This is a nice new addition but I noticed tonight that they deleted their US Newspaper collection! I've been using that a lot to research Ohio ancestors. After digging around a bit, it looks like they're not renewing their contract for the US newspapers. As far as I know, this was done with no notice to their subscribers.