The Guardian (1821-2003) and its sister paper The Observer (1791-2003) are now available online. Their archives give readers access to facts, eye-witness accounts and commentary on the most important events in politics, business, sport and the arts from the past two hundred years. You can read about Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the assassination of President Kennedy and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The papers have been digitised from cover to cover so you will be able to look at photographs as you read the text.
The Guardian and The Observer have always had a reputation for courageous reporting and for not being afraid to publish on controversial matters. The Guardian was originally known as The Manchester Guardian and first published on May 5th 1821 in the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre and was only published on Saturdays until the newspaper stamp duty was abolished in 1855. Readers who hated its radical stance would tear the paper in half, throw the commentary sections out of train windows saving only the stock market reports.
The paper achieved fame under the editorship of C.P.Scott who held the post for 57 years from 1872 whose dicta “Comment is free but facts are sacred … The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard.” has been the motto of many radical journalists.
The Observer has had a chequered history. During its first hundred years it was variously a scandal sheet, a vehicle for government propaganda and a thorn in the flesh of the Establishment. Its reputation for seriousness grew slowly through the nineteenth century as well as its stance of being a solid defender of the the freedom of the press. In 1820 the proprietor William Innell Clement ignored a ban on reporting the proceedings against the Cato Street conspirators. The defence of citizens’ freedoms continues to this day with the journalist Henry Porter’s attacks on the current infringements of civil liberties introduced by New Labour.
The Library now has four digitised newspaper titles: we also subscribe to The Times Digital Archive and Daily Mirror. They are invaluable tools for the researcher who now no longer has to do without the visual context of newspaper reporting. Photographs are the means by which newspapers dramatise the journalists’ copy and help deepen the reader’s understanding of an event.