I first began using newspapers for research to find genuine recipes from WW1. It was a comment in one of my research books that recipes and advice began appearing in newspapers as shortages began to bite, that led me to the brilliant British Newspaper Archive.
The Archive is a partnership between the British Library and Find My Past to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library's collection over the next 10 years. It means that from a home computer you can search by keywords, name, location, date or title of the subject you are looking for, and the results appear in seconds.
What I loved most was seeing the actual digitised versions of newspapers, just as the original readers would have seen them. However focused I tried to be on recipes, and tips to make tasty meals out of vegetables and the odd cut of horsemeat, the eye strayed to the articles and the advertisements all around. This was when I discovered just how valuable these newspapers are to getting a real feel of the time.
It was eerie looking back with modern eyes at a passing reference to a place called Gallipoli, between advertisements for soap, tips for using the best from your allotment, and the scandal of a divorce. It was heart-breaking seeing the lists of the fallen and obituaries of local men, with a faded photograph of a man in uniform. I began to dread seeing them. How much worse to have been the first reader, waiting and dreading, or maybe already traumatised by grief.
Newspapers are so much about ordinary life, and ordinary interests, that they made a fascinating insight into lost world – one that isn’t really so very different from our own. I shall certainly keep referring back to the digitised newspapers of the British Newspaper Archive time and time again.
You can find out more about divorce cases here on Juliet’s blog.
You can find out more about the lady and the chauffeur here on Juliet’s blog.