At the British Newspaper Archive, we have started to digitize international newspapers from the British Library. These rich titles explore the story of the British Commonwealth, from the time when the sun didn’t set on the British Empire through to states gaining their independence. At times, the subject of the newspapers brings us face to face with the stark and sometimes inhuman reality of colonialism and the legacy of the British Empire across the world.
Below we will explore some of the new international titles available at The British Newspaper Archive. Most of the newspapers were written by and published for the British population living in the colonies. They cover a range of topics including international politics, military campaigns, civil service appointments as well as domestic occurrences such as births, marriages, and deaths.
We start our journey in Belize with the Colonial Guardian . The Guardian was published in Belize City from 1882 to 1913. At the time, Belize was known as British Honduras. The country had been first colonised by the Spanish conquistadors and then by the English. The first English settlement was established in 1716.
What is unique about the Colonial Guardian is that the publishers tried to create a newspaper that could be read by both the British and the natives so they translated many of their articles into Spanish too. The editors express that they wanted the newspaper to help the colony on the path to progress and invited contributions from the public, particularly about agricultural development. The first issue details the history of agriculture and the logwood and mahogany trade of Belize.
Jamaica became a British colony in 1655 until it achieved independence in 1962. 1779 saw the debut of The Jamaica Mercury which later became The Royal Gazette of Jamaica. The first issue was not filled with testimony of progress or native languages, instead, it started with a look at world affairs and international politics from Germany, France and Russia.
‘The situation of public affairs in Europe is not becoming no less interesting than alarming. The Bavarian succession has already drawn forth the armies of Austria and Prussia….The Empress of Russia has declared her revolution to support the rights of the Germanic…. Should Spain be drawn into this wat with Great Britain, which France has so unjustly commenced.’
The Graphic brings us illustrations of colonial life in Jamaica in the 19th century.
The British planters exploited the land and the Caribbean climate to grow sugarcane. Jamaica became the largest exporter of sugarcane. Sugarcane production was labour intensive and the planters also exploited the local population by enslaving thousands of native Jamaicans and Africans to work on vast and lucrative sugar estates. By the time the first issue of The Jamaica Mercury went to print the number of enslaved Jamaicans exceeded 200,000.
The advertisements focused on identifying and capturing runaway slaves brings us face to face with the brutal reality of the life of the enslaved people of Jamaica. The advertisements describe the awful brandings that were burned into the flesh to identified the enslaver.
The slave trade was abolished in 1834, but the adjustment in Jamaica was not without conflict and hardship as can be seen in this article emphasizing the point that even though the former slaves were ‘apprentices’ that their behaviour could still render them liable for punishment.
You can explore more of the history of the British in Jamaica with over 16,000 pages of The Royal Gazette of Jamaica. to read.
Next, we travel north to Canada where we bring you three newspapers from another member of the British Commonwealth. First, we have Ontario’s Hamilton Daily Times not to be confused with The Hamilton Advertiser which served Glasgow and the surrounding area.
How do you know where the title came from? Check the front page, usually below the name of the newspaper title they explain what areas they serve.
The Archive also holds two titles from Toronto. The Toronto Daily Mail was founded by Toronto’s postmaster, Thomas Charles Patterson. This conservative title was first published in 1881.
Toronto Saturday Night was a weekly magazine published in newspaper format. The front page usually begins with ‘About Town’ imparting on the reader the latest tales of the who’s who of Toronto’s high society. In this example, Rose Coghlan graces the front page and we are told that despite obstacles and hardships became one of the leading ladies of the English theatres. She later travelled to America and became a favourite. She is described as
‘Cultured and refined, a conversationalist of rare powers, a student and artists of refined instincts, and with a host of eminent friends, she is indeed a fortunate woman as well as a brilliant actress.’
Toronto Saturday Night | 27 October 1888
India – British Raj
The Indian subcontinent was ruled by Britain for nearly 100 years 1858 to 1947. In the 18th century power in India had been consolidated by the East India Company until the formal rule was transfer to the British Crown in 1858.
The Archive brings you numerous titles from the subcontinent, with the earliest being the Madras Courier . Like many of the British India newspapers, it focused on proceedings of the state and the civil service departments. Today Madras is known as Chennai and is the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu.
Other titles include the Indian Daily News published in Calcutta, West Bengal; the Bangalore Spectator published in Bangalore, Karnataka; and Times of India published by The Times Group in Bombay, Maharashtra.
The highest number of pages can be found in the Englishman’s Overland Mail with over 62,000 pages to ready stretching from 1864 to 1928. The first issue opens with new of the money market, opium sales and the arrival of the new viceroy, Sir John Lawrence. Each front page contains a list of contents to help you jump straight into local intelligence, medical reports and shipping intelligence.
Within the Indian titles, you will find some dated and offensive language; such as calling native labourers coolies. These labourers were often used for tea cultivation on the tea plantations of Assam. After the abolition of slavery, many were forced into systems of indentured servitude.
This article discusses a recent Act of Parliament suggesting the change from payment for work completed to a fixed rate. It argues that planters would end up paying labourers even if they are lazy while those who could have completed double the amount of work will lose out on high rates of pay. The Act would also limit contracts to three years, defining the minimum pay, no work on Sunday or no more than six hours, no more than nine hours on the other six days of the week.
In 1835, a Baptist missionary, William Carey, started The Friend of India. Later the newspaper was purchased by Robert Knight who already owned The Statesman. In 1883, Knight combined the two newspapers and it became The Friend of India and Statesmen. It was a large, weekly title producing 16 pages each week. It brought news of municipal affairs, changes in the law and domestic occurrences like in this article from 1852 (insert left).
This title continues to be published today as The Statesman, having absorbed The Englishman (previously known as the Englishman’s Overland Mail) in 1927. Now adopting a centre-right perspective, The Statesman famously went against British government censorship in 1943 to publish pictures of the devastating Bengal famine.
Our final Indian title is the Bombay Gazette, first published in 1792 in Bombay, which now known as Mumbai. It was Bombay’s first English-language newspaper and the city’s leading newspaper for many years, it traces Bombay’s (now known as Mumbai) development into an important trading post. It contained local interest articles regarding Bombay, obituaries of British residents, as well as birth and marriage notices. In addition to this, it carried advertisements for a plethora of local services (including dentists) and products, like the latest fashions for the ‘ladies of Bombay.’
By the 1860s, the Bombay Gazette was being published daily, and was ‘circulated throughout the Presidency, British India, and the East.’ You can search nearly 40,000 pages of this title on The Archive, covering the years 1792 to 1868.
While exploring The Archive remember that the names of places and locations have changed throughout history. In this example from the Madras Courier you can find Catmandu instead of the modern spelling, Kathmandu, and Napaul instead of Nepal.
The modern state of Pakistan was formerly encompassed by British India during the years 1858 to 1947, with the state coming into being on 14 August 1947 during what was known as partition. The Archive so far holds one title from this region, the Civil and Military Gazette (Pakistan).
Published in Lahore, the Civil & Military Gazette (Pakistan) was a daily English-language newspaper which was founded in 1872. Representing a merger between the Lahore Chronicle and the India Public Opinion and Panjab Times, it was also simultaneously published in Simla (now Shimla) and Karachi.
The Civil & Miltuary Gazette (Pakistan) is perhaps most famous for being the workplace of that famous chronicler of the British Raj Rudyard Kipling. His father (the curator of Lahore museum) had procured a job for Kipling at the newspaper as it was feared that he would not be bright enough to attend Oxford University. As you can see above, the Civil and Military Gazette (Pakistan) also contains evidence of Rudyard Kipling’s efforts in amateur dramatics, this play occurring in 1884.
And it was in the Civil & Military Gazette (Pakistan) that the young Kipling published his first set of short stories Plain Tales from the Hills, between 1886 and 1887. He then made a move to its sister paper The Pioneer in Allahabad. Meanwhile, the Civil & Military Gazette (Pakistan) ran until 1963.
|Colonial Guardian (Belize)||1882-1897||3374 pages||Belize|
|Royal Gazette of Jamaica||1779-1781, 1793-1794, 1809, 1811-1819, 1824-1828, 1834-1836, 1838-1840||16700 pages||Jamaica|
|Hamilton Daily Times||1873-1886, 1912-1916, 1919-1920||33964 pages||Canada|
|Toronto Daily Mail||1882-1883, 1885-1895||32822 pages||Canada|
|Toronto Saturday Night||1887-191||16520 pages||Canada|
|Madras Courier||1790-1795, 1798-1813, 1815-1818||7714 pages||India|
|Bangalore Spectator||1877-1883||3586 pages||India|
|Englishman’s Overland Mail||1864-1905, 1907-1922, 1926-1928||62946 pages||India|
|Friend of India and Statesman||1852-1883||46604 pages||India|
|Times of India||1861-1865, 1867-1888||42030 pages||India|
|Indian Daily News||1875-1880||6710 pages||India|
|Bombay Gazette||1792, 1813-1814, 1816-1841, 1850-1856, 1858, 1860-1868||39496 pages||India|
|Indian Statesman||1876||40874 pages||India|
|Civil & Military Gazette (Pakistan)||1884, 1891-1893||788 pages||Pakistan|