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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

History 495AH/498A: American Public Health and Health Policy, ca. 1865-1970

A course guide.

1. Major U.S. Historical Newspapers Online

For the most complete information on digitized, historical newspapers, consult our Historical Newspapers guide. Below is a list of titles and collections that will be most useful for this class.

ProQuest Historical Newspapers

(ProQuest titles can be cross-searched.)


ProQuest Historical Black Newspapers

(ProQuest titles can be cross-searched.)

Farm, Field, and Fireside

Collection of farm newspapers with excellent coverage of the post-Civil War era and early 20th century. Includes a research guide to finding information on Health and Hygiene in farm newspapers. This collection is part of the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections.

Chronicling America

Large collection of digitized newspapers with good coverage of the post-Civil War era and early 20th century. Includes a few public health-related subject guides (e.g. influenza, Ellis Island).

2. 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.