British Library press archive goes online

Bad news is never new, but anyone overwhelmed by today's political scandals, wars, financial disasters, soaring unemployment and drunken feral children can take refuge in the 19th century - and its wars, financial disasters, political scandals, soaring unemployment and drunken feral children.

Over two million pages of 19th and early 20th century newspapers go online today, part of the vast British Library collection.

The 49 British national and regional titles cover events including the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815 - "Vague reports have been made of the numbers slain on both sides ... We should not quote them if our silence could prevent the spreading of disastrous intelligence", the Morning Chronicle reported. There was also the banks crisis of 1878, the first FA Cup final in 1872, and the triumph of the music hall star Vesta Tilley in a talent contest.

On 18 June 1859, the papers were reporting the political turmoil after the resignation of the Cabinet, as Palmerston struggled to put together a government in coalition with his former deadly rival Lord John Russell. As the Oxford Journal put it: "For the moment an event in our domestic politics eclipses in national interest the ever varying phases of the struggle in Italy." The Ipswich Journal reported passionate speeches in the House of Commons: "Their policy tended to ruin the people of England, and when they were turned out of office men slept more quietly in their beds. (Cries of "Oh! Oh!")"

Half a century earlier the news was no ­better. On June 18 1809 the Examiner warned of the alarming advances of the Emperor Napoleon against the Austrians, while its correspondent in Bohemia reported the confident prediction of Archduke Charles: "The days of the 21st and 22nd of May will be eternally memorable in the history of the world."

The shocking spectacle of drunken working men, women and even children was a recurring concern, but there was rare good news in 1840, when a correspondent to the Leeds Mercury reported the success of Father Mathew's temperance crusade in Dublin: "We still have abundance of poor, but our streets are not filled with the haggard and bloated faces they once were."

The site - - holds journals including the True Crime of its day, the Illustrated Police News which covered the Jack the Ripper murders. The British Library worked in partnership with the Joint Information Systems Committee and Gale, part of Cengage Learning, to create the service. Searches are free, but users can pay to download information.

No responsibility can be taken for the content of external Internet sites.

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