300 Years of the British Press Goes Digital – Gale and the British Library build a digital reading room

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich., Jan. 8, 2008 – With the release of British Library Newspapers, a new online database featuring three centuries of historic newspapers from Britain and Ireland, Gale “extends its leadership in digital publishing and research worldwide,” according to Brandon Nordin, publisher of Digital Collections at Gale. In total, Gale’s Digital Collections offer the scholarly and academic community a fully searchable digital library of over 75 million pages of rare books and newspapers from the last 500 years.

“This is indisputably the most important collection of its kind due to Gale’s unique access to the renowned British Library historic newspaper collection,” Nordin adds.

The British Library possesses the world’s most important newspaper collection. It holds more than 50,000 different titles on over 20 miles of shelf space in its London, Colindale and Boston Spa locations, attracting over 30,000 visitors a year.


British Library Newspapers

  • 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection Newspapers – a unique and widely referenced collection that charts the very earliest examples of newspaper publishing in Britain and its extended colonial outposts, including America, the Caribbean and India.
  • 19th Century British Library Newspapers – the most comprehensive range of national and regional newspapers in Victorian Britain ever assembled.

Together, these two collections contain a phenomenal 40 million articles and span 300 years of British and world history. Until today, these newspapers were available only in very rare print volumes or difficult-to-access microfilms or microfiche. “Digitization projects help democratize access, helping researchers around the globe to study material previously only available in select locations” says Nordin. “When paired with Gale’s powerful full-text search features and authoritative metadata, scholarly research will find material and links never before realized.”

Articles in this collection begin with illicit reports of parliamentary debates surrounding the introduction of the King James Bible in 1604, the English Civil War and continue to cover the expanding global interests of 18th and 19th century Britain:

  • The capture, trials and death of noted pirates William Kidd and Edward Teach (aka Blackbeard)
  • The debates over slavery, the American colonies and the universal franchise
  • The turmoil of French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars
  • Plus social, religious and political challenges presented by the Industrial revolution and British Empire.

Newspapers and articles written, edited, or published by such notable names as Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, Benjamin Franklin, William Cobbett, Charles Dickens, William Stead and Winston Churchill are all found in this resource.

These collections are relevant beyond the world of academic research. Beyond the reporting of events, newspapers such as the Daily Courant, Evening Post and London Chronicle provide a glimpse into social conditions and culture via advertisements, poetry, book reviews and public notices.

  • Family historians will find the records of passenger lists, births and deaths, governmental appointments and casualty rolls invaluable in genealogical research.
  • Newspaper articles make compelling teaching tools that help instructors go beyond the textbook to connect students to the past.
  • And with the advent of affordable wood and metal engraving and, late in the 19th century, photography, lavishly illustrated papers such as The Graphic capture a pictorial record of the Victorian world.

This project was a result of a unique co-operation between Gale, the British Library and Britain’s Joint Industry Standards Committee (JISC), an agency responsible for information access and technology into the UK’s higher education system. Thanks to the early investment of the JISC in the British Library Newspapers project, it is already available in over 125 colleges and universities throughout the British Isles. Early adopters in the U.S. include all the “Big Ten” universities.

Following the advanced technology pioneered by Gale in its landmark Times Digital Archive, first published in 2000 and including every issue of the London Times between 1785 and 1985, British Library Newspapers features an interface easy enough for the novice to search, and sophisticated enough for the experienced browser to pinpoint results. “We have met the needs of scholars, students and the general public,” said Gale Executive Vice President and Group Publisher Frank Menchaca, “with easy sourcing and citation tools, rich contextual tools, plus the capabilities to copy, print and e-mail the content.”

To accommodate the needs of individual libraries, the two collections comprising British Library Newspapers can be purchased separately or together.

About Cengage Learning and Gale

Cengage Learning, formerly Thomson Learning, delivers highly customized learning solutions for colleges, universities, professors, students, reference centers, government agencies, corporations and professionals around the world. Gale, part of Cengage Learning, serves the world’s information and education needs through its vast and dynamic content pools, which are used by students and consumers in their libraries, schools and on the Internet. It is best known for the accuracy, breadth and convenience of its data, addressing all types of information needs – from homework help to health questions to business profiles – in a variety of formats – books and eBooks, databases and microfilm. For more information visit: www.cengage.com or www.gale.com