The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, August 22, 2003

Online historical newspaper archives - few and well-hidden!

The priceless quality of a contemporary newspaper account is twofold:
  1. for all its faults, it only has the spin it was born with; and

  2. it tends to deal with matters that are on no one's agenda today.

However, decent collections are carefully corralled behind pay-only barriers.

Free collections (that I've found) are few and far between.
  1. at the British Library, short runs (no later than 1918) drawn more or less at random from the Weekly Dispatch, News of the World, Manchester Guardian and Daily News;

  2. a run from 1841 to 1902 of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (largest circulation evening newspaper in the US at one time, I seem to recall reading);

  3. the Harvard Crimson going back to 1900;

  4. various Utah titles provided by the University of Utah and listed at the Online Books site.

Hats off to Brooklyn Library, the Crimson guys and Utah U for their initiative. But it's an eclectic bunch, by any criterion! The problem is made worse by the fact that, so far as I can see, there is no comprehensive listing of such free online historical newspaper archives as exist.

The lack of a decent etext effort from the two main national libraries of the anglophone world is an utter disgrace (compared to the sterling effort made by the Paris Bibliothèque nationale). An enormous trick was lost when a proper slice of funding for millennium projects was not devoted to getting printed heritage online.

Still, as Oscar Hammerstein said, Be thankful for the things they got...

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