Britain's historical news junkies are in for a treat today, because the British Library has just digitized a major chunk of its newspaper archive, comprised of four million pages spanning some 300 years of headlines. With today's launch of the British Newspaper Archive, users can search and browse through a staggering 65 million articles from a range of regional UK papers, encompassing the most newsworthy events from the past few centuries. Developed in coordination with online publisher Brightsolid, the archive also allows for remote article access and download, saving researchers a trip to the British Library's newspaper depository in North London. The initiative seems similar to some we've seen from the Library of Congress in recent years, though the archive isn't completely open to the public. Users can search the site for free, but will have to pay a subscription fee to download any article as a PDF. And, expansive as the selection may be, Brightsolid and the Library are aiming to digitize a full 40 million pages over the course of the next decade.

Nevertheless, today's arrival marks an important first step for the British Library and, in a larger sense, British history -- on both individual and collective levels. "For the first time people can search for their ancestors through the pages of our newspapers wherever they are in the world at any time," Ed King, head of the library's newspaper collection, told the Telegraph. "But what's really striking is how these pages take us straight back to scenes of murders, social deprivation and church meetings from hundreds of year ago, which we no longer think about as we haven't been able to easily access articles about them." Be sure to check out the archive at the source link below, and be prepared to lose your entire afternoon in the process.

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British Library digitizes 300 years worth of newspaper archives, brings 65 million articles online