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Daily and weekly newspapers are a useful source for historians, often providing information unavailable elsewhere. Like any source, care needs to be taken with the accuracy or bias of the content but newspapers can reveal detailed historical evidence or act as a signpost to other sources. This may be in the journalistic text but also in adverts and formal notices.
Early newspapers carried largely national and international news, often reprinted from London newspapers. The circulations were relatively small and their cost expensive limiting their availability to the elite. Taxation on newspapers and advertisements added to the cost but by the 18th century locally produced publications emerged. However, it was not until the mid-19th century when the restrictive taxes were abolished in 1853 and 1855 and literacy improved that the reporting of truly local news became a significant feature. The dramatically reduced cost made newspapers more affordable and most sizeable towns had at least one publication. National newspapers emerged with improved rapid transport via the railways enabling local papers to concentrate on local news.
The regional and local press suffered severely from paper shortages in World War I and many titles ceased publication.
Oxfordshire had an important regional newspaper in Jackson’s Oxford Journal, published between 1753 and 1928. Other newspapers to emerge included the Abingdon Herald (1868), Banbury Advertiser (1855), Bicester Advertiser (1855), Henley Advertiser (1870), Oxford Times (1862), Oxfordshire Weekly News (1869) and Thame Gazette (1856). Microform and original newspapers can be viewed at the Oxfordshire Studies Library (OSL) and many local libraries throughout the county. A full list of newspapers covering Oxfordshire with publication dates can be found at the Centre for Oxfordshire Studies website. Shown is an article from Jackson's Oxford Journal, 15 February1862.
The British Library have digitised a large number of 19th century regional and sub-regional newspapers, including Jackson's Oxford Journal. Access is available at the Britsh Newspapers website. Access is free for subscribing institution but is available to all subject to a small charge. The Times online digital archive for the period 1785-1985 is available in similar fashion.