From today, web users will be able to access more than two million pages of 19th and 20th century history by browsing a selection of 49 British and regional newspaper titles, courtesy of the British Library.
Included in the collection are archives from the Graphic, an illustrated weekly publication which ran from 1869 to 1932. Writing on October 13 1888 after the Jack the Ripper murders, one journalist said: "To the general public it is some comfort to reflect that the late atrocities were aimed at a particular class, and that their object was not robbery. Educated persons, who have many interests and subjects of conversation, can, perhaps, scarcely realise the impression made by these occurrences on poor and ignorant people, whose lives are usually monotonous and uneventful."
Meanwhile, in the Penny Illustrated Paper, another weekly, a self-described "old-fashioned woman" explains why women want the vote: "Under these altered conditions it is a matter of paramount importance that the women who help to find the money which keeps up the State should also have a voice in the spending of that money, and more, that they should have a voice in electing the men who make the laws under which they live and which they must obey." Women would have to wait an additional 18 years before being granted the right to vote on the same terms as men.
Other key topics, as highlighted by the British Library, include Slavery and its Abolition; Chartism; The Sepoy Mutiny; Bryant and May Match Girls' Strike; Sex and Scandal; The Napoleonic Wars; and the Crimean War.
The virtual library has been put together with the assistance of Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) and Gale. Until at least 2010, they are committed to improving digital access to educational resources, delivering an optimum online experience for the user, as well as facilitating web-based research.
The launch of the online archives comes just one day after British Library CEO Dame Lynne Brindly responded to Lord Carter's Digital Britain report, published earlier this week. In a press release, Dame Brindly said:
"I welcome the fact that Lord Carter specifically referenced the British Library's Nineteenth British Century Newspapers digitisation programme as an example of how new business models can enable national institutions to work with commercial partners and funding bodies to make millions of pages of historic content available online to researchers and the public. We are sitting on a goldmine of content which should be considered integral to the UK's digital strategy. To support Digital Britain we need to deliver a critical mass of digitised content - sustained public investment, along with the innovative business models cited in Lord Carter's report, will enable us to achieve this."
Lord Carter's proposals on Intellectual Property (IP) regulation and improving digital literacy were also welcomed.
Registration and payment is necessary to read the majority of articles, although a limited selection is available free of charge. The library can be accessed here: http://newspapers.bl.uk/blcs
Source: British Library