A resource that I find quite invaluable when researching odd bits of history is the British Library’s online digital archive of old newspapers, and this morning, they announced that the collection just increased by around a third to some three million pages of content.
The fact that they have not just scanned the pages in, but also converted them into text so that you can search the newspapers for key phrases just as you would use Google to find websites is what makes it such a useful service.
Alas, much of it is behind a pay-firewall unless you access the website from within a university or suitable organisation, so it isn’t something I can casually browse in the evenings when bored. Nonetheless, when I am on a research hunt, I can save up what I need to look for, then spend half a day every so often fitting all the searches into one block of paid access.
Ideally, the archives from the big national papers would also be part of the British Library platform, but they tend to have their own (charged) service of their own. Which is why I rarely cite The Times when hunting for information as I simply can’t afford to pay for access to each individual newspaper.
Obviously, I can visit the newspaper archive building itself for free, but I do enjoy sometimes just sitting at home when bored and browsing old newspapers.