Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Digitised history

British Library Newspapers Online allows researchers to explore over three million pages of 18th and 19th century newspapers online. It's a brilliant resource that has changed the whole nature of historical investigation. It has also presented challenges, some of which were debated at Digitised History, a conference held at the BL on Tuesday.

I plan to write about the day on vexed issue. However, one point that intrigued me was a remark made by Jim Draper, Vice President and Publisher at Gale, when he mentioned that the Victorians were obsessed with the phrase 'eaten by' - as in humans being eaten by wild animals or cannibals.

This chimed with some of the background research I did for Those Who Dared. Starting with the obsession with sailors from Sir John Franklin's failed attempt to find the North West Passage resorting to eating their dead colleagues, to wild tales of cannibalism from around the world, the papers were indeed obsessed with the phrase. A quick search brought up numerous examples. I've chosen this Manchester Guardian story from January 14 1890, if only for the extra details about 'roasting' and 'besmeared with blood'.

1 comment:

  1. This is all wonderful, and there is no doubt that this is a great resource for Franklin and many other historical figures. Yet it should be clarified that the BL's database is not available to users overseas, not to UK users whose institutions have not registered with them. Since the vast majority of this material is free of copyright in the UK and worldwide, I can only regard this restriction as an unfair and unjustified one, and much more of a theft of information than an instance of sharing. This resource ought to be made freely available worldwide, else the whole business is just rubbish.