The voice of an Empire: 300 years of British newspapers

Napoleon Bonaparte was quoted as saying that “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets”. Napoleon had more reason to fear public opinion and sharp pointy bits than most of us, but what is true for us all is the power of newspapers to inform and reflect the society we live in or sprouted from.

Cultural trends, political currents and social problems are reflected in past newspapers and give  immediacy to historical events. They also contain important genealogical information for those who seek out their own origins. British Library Newspapers consists of two major collections from the British Library that are a fantastic example of this: 17th and 18th Century Burney Collection  and 19th Century British Library Newspapers.

The two collections combined contain nearly three million pages that can be searched separately or together depending upon your needs. You can access this resource from home or within libraries using your customer number and PIN. Within these pages you will find the voices of the populace that Napoleon so feared … and with good reason!

“Cutting and singeing”, 1902

There are combinations mentioned in here that just don’t appear in beauty ads today: “Faded Wrinkled and Withered Skins”, “Toilet and Hairdressing”, and “Cutting and Singeing”.

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We have digitised a rather splendid 1902 publication Tourists’ guide to Canterbury.

I will share some of the interesting ads and pictures from it in a series of posts – there’s lots of information about local businesses and places in 1902.