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1.1 million pages are being digitised from 18th and 19th century news, building on previous projects to enable access to a virtual library containing some 4 million digitised pages of important national, regional and local newspapers. It will open up to diverse communities the first three centuries of newspapers throughout the British Isles.

British newspapers 1620-1900

Latest News (April 2010): This project is now complete, and a c3m pages are now available via the website. Acccess for HE and FE staff and stundets is via the institutional gateway. Full details of the newspapers to be added are in the BL newspapers project plan.

Watch a video about the entire resource

The project

Newspapers constitute a unique resource for engagement with the British past at an international, national and a very local level. They provide invaluable information, often found nowhere else, for teachers and researchers at all levels, as well as for the general public. While offering rich opportunities, original newspapers are hard to locate and often survive in rare or unique copies held at the British Library, frequently far from the researcher. Once located they are difficult to consult, the required information being hard to find in the bulk of published material, and the original paper often fragile to the point of disintegration. Digitisation opens up access to this valuable resource, unique to British Library and currently unavailable except by visiting the Colindale reading room, to the widest possible audience.

The British Library has already digitised two separate collections of newspapers: British newspapers 1800-1900 and the Burney collection of British 18th century newspapers. This project will deepen and widen the range of digitised content from both these earlier projects and bring them together to create a single, coherent and enriched resource which fully represents of the whole range of British newspapers from 1620-1900.

Users will have the unprecedented ability to search across different newspaper titles to draw together materials relating to a wide range of research and learning topics and access to a broad range of valuable learning materials

The content

The project's 1.1 million pages will be taken from:

  • regional and local newspapers from the 19th (and some from the 18th) century
  • 19th century continuations of 18th century London newspapers in the Burney collection
  • specialist newspapers on themes of Reform and Politics, Religion, and Satire

The primary focus, some 75% of the project, will be on regional and local titles predominantly from the 19th century but also including some 18th century titles. This will complete the geographic coverage of areas that were under-represented in the earlier projects.

The process

Our approach is based upon the experience and expertise we have gained from our previous newspaper digitisation projects. A solid infrastructure is in place, including formalised digitisation standards, a signed framework agreement with the main supplier, a website platform already planned to be tested and launched in early 2007, documented workflows and procedures that have been proven in practice and learning which can be applied to streamline and improve future initiatives.

Pages will be microfilmed in-house (or copied from existing microfilms) then digitised, divided into articles and OCR-scanned in order to extract the text contents.

The resulting images and XML data will be added to a website already being planned for the Burney and JISC Phase 1 projects, to be hosted by a commercial partner.

The future

We believes that the corpus of Burney and the two JISC projects will lead to a step change within scholarly communities, vastly expanding the range and variety of what can be used in research, at all levels of education.

In order to develop specific examples of this, and to enhance our expertise in making the digitised newspapers accessible to be used in the teaching environment, the British Library has obtained the support of the MA Course Director and PGCE History Course Leader at Keele University. With next year’s PGCE students, he will pilot actual use of the British Newspapers website and digitised collections in preparing and in using teaching materials in school history classes.

The project plan

Download the project plan to find out more about the detail of the project.

The Final Report

Download the Final Report (pdf)

Lead site: The British Library

Documents & Multimedia