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Newspapers and other online news sources from the 17th – 21st centuries: Home

A guide to historical and current newspapers and news sources, covering the 17th to 21st centuries. Includes searching tips, outline common problems and lists key resources available to Oxford scholars.

Newspaper (n.)

Newspaper (n.)

“A printed publication, now usually issued daily or weekly, consisting of folded unstapled sheets and containing news, freq. with the addition of advertisements, photographs, articles, and correspondence”
OED Online. Oxford University Press, accessed online 3/8/17

First mentioned in 1667 by the Earl of Arlington "I must refer you to our News Papers for a further account of the Proceedings of the Parliament." Let. to W. Temple 18 Oct. (1701) 187, OED, accessed online 3/8/17 

Top resources

Value of newspapers

Newspapers are generally aimed at the general public or particular groups of the general public.

They are useful to find out about key events, people and places. They include opinion pieces, of either writers, editors or members of the public in form of Letters to the Editor. They are also a wonderful source for all sorts of ephemera (weather, court circulars, advertising, etc.). Larger newspapers will also provide battle or war reports, law or court reports and parliamentary reports, incl. occasional reproductions of full text speeches.

Understanding the context of your newspaper

To use newspapers as a source responsibly, you really need to understand the context of each newspaper. For instance, newspapers were often used for propaganda purposes (owner, country, religion, etc.). You need to consider:

  • the intended audience
  • where in the newspaper your article appears (e.g. front page, length of article). For instance, there is a gender agenda if placed on social events section? This could be a problem if a newspaper database doesn’t show you the layout of newspaper and where the article was actually published (see Common problems)
  • ownership and editors

Using newspapers without that understanding can lead one to be misinformed about the time period being researched: bias, wrong facts, propaganda. It is advised to use other sources to corroborate & provide different perspective.

Tools to help you learn more about your newspaper:

The Waterloo Directories include historical information on ownership, circulation, prices, political & religious affiliation, etc. Please note the Waterloo Directories don't work well with Internet Explorer (IE).

World Press Trends Database: a primary source of data to the global newspaper industry worldwide, covering 2000-current. It includes data from more than 70 countries, accounting for more than 90 per cent of the global industry's value. The data is available as individual country reports, and aggregated to reveal trends on circulation and readership.

What you can do with newspapers

Use of newspapers depends on what you intend to do but examples of what you can do include:

  • Search for specific person, place, event across or in individual newspaper for political, social, economic, cultural history (incl. literature, etc.)
  • Understand better what life was like in particular place, region, country or a particualr period
  • Research newspaper as form of communication (incl. linguistic aspects, history of journalism)
  • Research specific content types (ads, editorials, obituaries)

Contact us

If your enquiry relates to a particular region or subject please contact your subject librarian. Alternatively

Email: reader.services@bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Telephone: 01865 277162

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