1. Why use this guide?
This is a brief guide to researching newspapers and the history of the press. It will tell you where to start if you are looking for:
- newspaper collections
- archival records that shed light on the history of the press
2. Online newspaper collections
It is always best to start online if you are looking for newspapers. A growing number of websites provide access to digitised newspapers.
Search British and overseas newspapers online, for example:
- London, Belfast and Edinburgh Gazettes
- The Times Digital Archive (£there will be a charge), provided by Gale Cengage
- British Newspaper Archive (£there will be a charge)
- 17th and 18th century Burney Collection newspapers (£there will be a charge) and 19th century British Library newspapers, provided by Gale Cengage (£there will be a charge)
- Internet Library of Early Journals
- Australian newspapers on the National Library of Australia's Trove website
- Chronicling America
- Proquest Historical Newspapers (£there will be a charge)
- Time Magazine Archive
Some of the sites are free, but many are subscription-based (£) and offer subscriptions only to institutions, not to individual people.
3. Where can I find newspaper collections that aren't online?
Some libraries and archives have newspaper collections.
Find regional newspaper collections in:
- British Library Newspapers - the main British copyright collection, with a reading room in Colindale, North London
- The National Library of Wales
- National Library of Scotland
- Belfast Central Library
- National Library of Ireland
Search the ARCHON Directory to find other libraries and local archives that hold newspaper collections.
4. Does The National Archives have newspapers?
The National Archives is not the best place to start if you're looking for newspapers, but we do have some newspaper collections.
4.1 Government gazettes
The National Archives has government gazettes - the official newspapers of former British colonies and British dominions.
To find colonial or dominion government gazettes, search Discovery, our catalogue, using the name of the territory and the phrase 'government gazettes'.
They have not been digitised, but the originals are held at The National Archives at Kew. They all have the letter codes CO (Colonial Office) or DO (Dominions Office).
If you are in the reading rooms at The National Archives at Kew, ask to see the CODOFO paper index, which includes a list of colonial newspapers.
4.2 Transport-related newspapers
The National Archives also has a large number of transport-related newspapers, magazines and journals. Try searching for the title in our catalogue, within the following departments:
There is also a card index compiled by British Transport Historical records (BTHR) in the reading rooms at The National Archives at Kew. Use the index to find references to all original documents and publications (including some references to overseas railways) up to 1972.
5. Researching the history of the press
Always start with published histories. Useful books and directories include:
- Encyclopedia of the British press by Dennis Griffiths (Macmillan, 1992)
- Read all about it! A history of the British newspaper by Kevin Williams (Routledge, 2009)
- Benn's media (1975-present)
- Willing's press guide (1928-present)
- Mitchell's newspaper press directory (1846-1907)
You can use The National Archives' library catalogue to find more histories of the press. Many books have been published on individual newspapers, journals and publishers.
6. Archival records relating to press history
Search the National Register of Archives (NRA) database to find records held in local archives. You can look up the name of a journalist or a business, or make an advanced search of the business index restricted to the 'paper, printing and packaging' category.
Archives holding relevant records include:
- The Stationers' Company
- British Cartoon Archive
- Scottish Archive of Print and Publishing History Records (SAPPHIRE)
Finally, try to find out whether The National Archives has records that are relevant to your research. It's worth searching our catalogue using keywords such as 'newspaper' to find records which relate to the history of newspapers and the press.
You can also find whole newspapers, newspaper articles and cuttings which have been inserted into The National Archives' records. These have not always been catalogued, but it is possible to discover them by accident.