Researching animals with historical newspapers – The British Newspaper Archive Blog

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Researching animals with historical newspapers

Hannah Velten recently got in touch to tell us how she uses The British Newspaper Archive to research a rather niche subject – the history of animals within society.

Show us what you’re researching at the moment by emailing press@britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

 

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One day it could be a toad emerging from a rock or a person kicked by a horse – I never know what I’m going to find when I log into The British Newspaper Archive each day. My goal is simply to unearth a nugget of animal history related to the day’s date.

Kicked by a horseThere’s no academic rigour involved: I type ‘animal’ into the search area, specify the date, with a year chosen at random, and wait to see what comes up. Some days the search only reveals one entry and some days I’m overwhelmed with tens of pages, but I will pick a story from page one.

 

Animal History Daily on Twitter

I should explain this rather odd behaviour… I’m tweeting a story every day during 2014, using the hashtag #AHD, and exploring the details behind the 140-characters in a weekly blog post.

Why? Because I’m rather obsessed with our historical interaction with animals and at the end of 2013, while promoting my book Beastly London: A History of Animals in the City, I felt that after seven years of research and writing it would be fun to find further inspiration by serendipitous means.

 

A Tail without a Pig!

My first story got me hooked. It’s not a pleasant one, but it’s surprising, jovial and beautifully provincial, proving animals were once so much a part of everyday life:

 

Article about a tail without a pig

 

Royal Cornwall Gazette – Saturday 01 January 1820
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

View the whole newspaper page

 

To give you an idea of the variety of animal stories I find, here are several of my favourites from the ones I’ve covered so far – they give an amazingly quirky insight into social history.

 

Fall of a ‘Baldwin Pony’

This is an example of an extreme circus animal act that sadly went wrong. It led to a RSPCA-backed court case where the charge of cruelty was eventually dropped.

 

Article about the fall of a Baldwin pony

 

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper – Sunday 03 March 1889
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

View the whole newspaper page

 

A Too Clever Dog

Another court case, but this time involving a dog bite and an oddly proud owner.

 

Article about a 'too clever dog'

 

Sheffield Independent – Saturday 19 February 1853
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

View the whole newspaper page

 

Sheep as Mascot

A buried sheep lives on to become the mascot of the coal tippers at Swansea Docks.

 

Article about a sheep mascot

 

The Daily Herald – Tuesday 19 January 1926
Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page

 

Elephants in the River

This article records the rescue of menagerie elephants from a river when their caravan tipped over.

 

Article about an elephant rescue

 

Bury and Norwich Post – Wednesday 16 February 1842
Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

View the whole newspaper page

 

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Visit Hannah’s blog Animal History Daily: Random Titbits from the Archives to see more of her fascinating finds.

 

 

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