Guardian Digital Archive

As promised, The Guardian (1821-1975) and The Observer (1900-1975) newspapers have been placed online from today. The web address is

This is another huge boon for research in our area, and I’ve found and downloaded assorted gems from The Guardian already. A powerful eye-witness account of the Bazar de la charité fire in Paris (6 May 1897, p 8), an enthusiastic report on microcinematography (15 August 1903, p. 7), a leader on the rise of the picture theatre (3 July 1911, p 6), a report on Maurice Elvey filming Hindle Wakes (set in Lancashire) (28 October 1926, p 11), a fascinating article on watching films in Moscow in 1927 (5 January 1927, p 16), and a wonderful piece on ‘Flicker Alley’ (17 October 1911, p 14), the name given for Cecil Court, the short London street near Leicester Square, which was the home of London’s early film businesses before they all moved on to Wardour Street.

Its windows show wild-looking mechanical contrivances that, whatever they may really be, always seems so concentrated that one thinks of them as the very intestines of machinery; and the men who go in and out of the doors (usually in groups of four or five with a voluable one a little ahead) having a hustling, sharp-eyed, yet half-whimsical look … The cinematograph trade is yet too young to have evolved a type, but it seemed to me that the denizens of Flicker Alley (as they call this passage) all have something characteristic that marks them off from ordinary men. Possibly the endless films they look at affects the eye-nerves or teahes the mind to think of the eye as something to switch off and on – a glance, a calculation, another look, a “glad eye,” another calculation, and so on. They flicker. Their conversation flickers too, mainly in rapid Yankee slang jerked at a hard pace, a well-known figure there creating the flicker illusion best with an inimitable stutter. They run about all over Europe and America, these quick, handy, cheery people, and some seek to rival the cosmopolitanism of the cinematograph by making their speech a compote of foreign catchwords. You see no old men. The “father of the trade” looks about forty. With them antiquity was last week, and posterity is coming round to look at their films to-morrow.

I wrote earlier that the service would be free for the first month, but I was wrong – it is half price for this month, which means, for instance, that a twenty-four hour pass will cost you £3.97. Use the Advanced Search, not the Simple Search, as it allows you to sort results in date order, and to search across articles, or picitures, or advertisements. Searching itself is free; you pay to see the article, which can be printed or stored in a MyCollection page.

Some quibbles. I couldn’t make images print using Firefox; use Explorer instead. The search results give you an image of the heading of the item, which does not always indicate when it is relevant to your search, and some time is wasted opening up irrelevant pages. Your search word is underlined in blue on the selected documents, which has the unfortunate effect of sometimes obscuring the words underneath. You only get four or five results per page, which is frustrating and makes searching for the right record more of a chore than it should be. You cannot go from an article you’ve viewed to the rest of the newspaper for that day, though there is an alternative browse option which lets you look at the full newspaper for any one day. But you cannot narrow subject searches by day, or even year.

Minor gripes aside, this is a treasure trove. Remember that for most of this time period, the Guardian was based in Manchester, which gives a different slant to its news coverage. Also, despite The Observer search option saying that covers 1900-1975, there seem to be no records available prior to 1932.

Update: The Guardian is currently offering a free introductory 24-hour pass to its Digital Archive, presumably for a short period only.

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