Saturday, June 27, 2009

: First drafts of history' go online at British Library

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First drafts of history’ go online at British Library
Hasan Suroor


It is now possible to access back issues of 49 newspapers from year 1800
Searches are free but downloads are charged


LONDON: More than two million pages of 19th and early 20th century British newspapers â€" the supposed “first drafts of history” â€" can now be accessed by simply clicking a button on your computer under a new online service launched by the British Library on Thursday.
The pay-as-you-go service aimed at widening the access to the library’s treasure chest of rare documents will make it possible to read scanned pages from 49 national and regional British newspapers stretching back to 1800.
Among the major world events, as reported in the British press at the time, is India’s first war of Independence of 1857 though it is variously described as the “Sepoy Mutiny,” “The Great Mutiny in India” and “The Indian Mutiny.”
On July 24, 1857, The Morning Chronicle, London, published a letter from a 19-year-old British soldier from Meerut to his sister in Britain giving an account of the “fearful massacre.”
:“...your brother has been spared from the fearful massacre that has taken place at Delhi; and although he is still alive and well, Oh, my own dearest sister, the escape I have had has been most miraculous - in fact, I can hardly realise it; and, when one comes to look back upon it, it is scarcely to be believed... there is only one other officer of my unfortunate regiment out of those who were with it at the time of the mutiny who has escaped to this place, and he, poor fellow, is in hospital with a musket-ball through his thigh,” he wrote.
The library said the content for the online service had been chosen by historical experts and was aimed at presenting a cross-section of 19th century society in the areas of business, sport, politics and entertainment.
These include the first FA Cup final between Wanderers and Royal Engineers at the Kennington Oval in 1872 and the first England-Australia Test match in 1877. The collection focuses on national newspapers such as The Times and Daily News and regional titles, including the Manchester Times.
“Users are now able to read first-hand factual reporting of the Battle of Trafalgar in the Examiner and the gory details of the Whitechapel murders in the melodramatic Illustrated Police News,” the library said.
Simon Bell, the library’s head of product development, said: “There’s a huge appetite for wider online access to this kind of resource, which is already well used by readers at the British Library and by people in higher and further education. The new pay-as-you-go service will enable users across the U.K. who don’t wish to travel to our Reading Rooms in London or Yorkshire to delve into this unrivalled online resource.”
Simon Fowler, Editor of Ancestors magazine, said: “This new service really does open up a major new resource for family historians. Realistically, for the first time it is possible to use newspapers to complement other records to build up a rounder portrait of our ancestors, with information that would not be possible to obtain elsewhere.”
The searches of the site ( are free but there’s a nominal charge for downloads


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