Learning Activity

Be a British Library Researcher and create a newspaper exhibition

The British Library includes the National Newspaper Library in Colindale, North London. It also has daily, weekly and monthly newspapers, some of which stretch back to the beginning of the printed newssheet.

It has a huge collection of 17th century newssheets, including 22,000 from the time of the Civil War, collected by a London bookseller, George Thomason. These tell us a great deal about the burning issues and major stories of their time.

You are part of a team of historical experts on 16th and 17th century English History. You have been asked by the British Library to analyse and write about five old news texts that have recently been rediscovered. Please use the guidelines with each source to help you complete your report.


Research strategies:

  • Describe what is in each source.
  • What do the words of each text say and mean? Look at the transcripts if you find it difficult to read the original manuscript. Try to make out the general sense of each piece. You don't have to translate every word exactly.
  • Try to date the publication of the texts.
  • Research the social, military and political history of the period. What events or movements do the texts describe?
  • What do you think was the attitude of the publishers of the texts to the events being reported and the people involved?

Sources to help you get started in your own research:

  • Websites e.g  http://www.british-civil-wars.co.uk/index.htm
  • Books – try the history section in your local or school library
  • Your local museum may have information about this period.
  • Discussion with other people in your group – if you are stuck for ideas, get talking!
  • Present your results

Use your discoveries to write notes for an exhibition of the texts giving further information about the historical background. Write up all your notes and present them, with your translations to your team leader. You can include maps, diagrams or drawings if you think they would help the exhibition. It is important that as well as presenting your exhibition text with your ideas, you should come to a conclusion.