Connected Histories includes the 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection, and now also the 19th-century material digitised by the British Library.
Contents of this article
British Newspapers 1600-1900 is a major resource bringing together two collections of digitised newspapers:
The 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection of printed papers, held in the British Library, was initially assembled by the Reverend Charles Burney (1757-1817). Although the vast majority are newspapers, primarily from London, there are also some pamphlets, broadsides and books. This collection helps researchers to chart the development of the newspaper as we now know it, beginning with irregularly published transcriptions of parliamentary debates and proclamations to coffee house newsbooks, finally arriving at the newspaper in its current form. The collection includes 1,270 titles, and 1 million pages.
British Newspapers 1800-1900 makes available a further 3 million pages from 71 London, national and regional newspapers from 1800 to 1900. It is the most comprehensive collection of national and regional newspapers of Victorian Britain available. This full-text, fully searchable digital archive currently includes papers originating in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, carefully selected by an editorial board from the British Library and providing a broad yet detailed view of British life in the 19th century.
The majority of the 17th-18th century papers are from London, but the site also includes papers from all over England. In addition, there are a small number of papers from Scotland, Ireland, the rest of Europe, and even Barbados, Jamaica, the United States and India. The 19th-century papers are from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They cover a range of news, but primarily foreign wars; meetings of parliament; local news including crimes and punishments; and eccentricities. They also includes advertisments and announcements.
Strengths and weaknesses
Newspapers contain reports on a vast array of topics, providing a fascinating window on daily life as well as events of national and international importance. But many entries are very short and their provenance is not explained. Many papers borrowed extensively from each other, particularly during the 17th and 18th centuries, so there is considerable repetition, with provincial papers frequently repeating information in the London papers. Although the Burney Collection is the largest collection of surviving newspapers from the period to 1800, it is not comprehensive; missing copies and titles may be found in other libraries. Similarly, while it is the largest collection available, British Newspapers 1800-1900 contains only a very limited selection of the newspapers available during the period, although they have been selected with a view to ensuring broad coverage.
The digital edition relies on OCR, which can make keyword searching problematic. If comprehensive search results are required, it is best to try several variants of a word, or use wild cards.
See the Burney About page and Research tools section of the 19th Century Collection website for more information.
The underlying full text, on which searching is conducted, was produced using Optical Character Recognition (or OCR). OCR is not as accurate as the rekeying of text, particularly for earlier printed materials, but it allows the digitisation of material on the large scale required for a resource of this type.
About the project
The 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection was digitised through a partnership between the National Science Foundation and the British Library, and developed and hosted online by Gale Cengage Learning. British Newspapers 1800-1900 was digitised by the British Library with funding from JISC, and is also hosted by Gale Cengage Learning.