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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 498K: A Catastrophic Dependence or "More oil, ever more oil!"

Course guide to library resources on the history of petroleum use

Historical Newspapers

In addition to historical digitized newspapers to which we have access, we have a large collection of newspapers on microfilm.   In order to find out if we have a particular newspaper, or to find out if we have a newspaper for a particular city, you can search our database of newspapers held at the University of Illinois Library.

Current Newspapers

Searching Historical Newspapers

Like any other primary source, historical newspapers embody the values, perspectives, and purposes of their producers.  They are subject to economic, social, and political influences, some of which can be identified, while others remain obscure.  Always ask yourself these key questions:

1.  Who was involved in the production of this newspaper?

2.  Does this newspaper have an identifiable political or socio-economic orientation or affiliation?

3.  Who was the target audience?

When you find specific articles in a newspaper that address your topic, ask yourself:

1.  What is the context for this article?  Was it written to convey information about an event or to contribute to a discussion of a controversial issue? 

2.  What aspects of the story are emphasized in the article?

3.  What doesn't the article tell you about the story?

4.  How is the article placed in the issue and on the page?

5.  Is there related material in the same issue?

6.  What language was used to describe the topic?

For purposes of conducting research, there is one key difference between using a digitized historical newspaper and using a newspaper in hard copy or on microfilm.  The sole access point for non-digital newspapers is date.  For digitized newspapers, you can search by keyword and/or date. In other words, for original print newspapers or newspapers on microfilm, there is no subject access: no index, no keyword search, no means of searching directly by subject.

When using digitized historical newspapers, remember that searching on keywords means using the exact language that was used by the author(s) of the article at the time the newspaper was published.  You must be careful to use the terminology of the historical period.  This may include language that we would consider objectionable today.

As you find some articles on your topic, note what other terms were used and try searching again with those terms.