History can be a dry, academic subject, with simply notable dates, events and prominent people to the fore in exploring the past.
Even local history relies on the few who made the effort to chronicle what they saw as relevant at their time.
Colour is what makes the subject fascinating and familiarity is what brings history to life.
Both are found in abundance in what are arguably the most comprehensive text books we have – local newspapers.
Today, whether in print or online, they are still very much part of the information process, taking their place along side 24/7 reportage that can bring a story into your living room from the other side of the globe, instantly.
But an important marker on the journey towards the global newsroom we have today was the era when the ‘local’ paper dominated the communities it served.
In the 1800s, many aimed for a county circulation.
And while the titles that still serve Fife today all have a proud history, in the 19th century the local paper’s ‘patch’ was an extensive one.
In the 1840s, the ‘must read’ was, to give its full name, ‘The Fife Herald and Kinross, Strathearn and Clackmannan Advertiser’ and for fourpence halfpenny you had all the national and local news you needed to know.
Now the British Newspaper Archive – a partnership between the British Library and findmypast to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library’s vast collection over the next 10 years – has added 4310 extra pages from historical editions of the Fife Herald and made them available online.
Subscribers, no matter where they are in the world, can now search these by any word or phrase they’re interested in.
The Fife Herald online archive now covers 1089 issues between 1800 and 1849, and 1996 issues between 1850-1899.
A spokesman for the Archive said: “The British Library’s newspaper collections are among the finest in the world, containing most of the runs of newspapers published in the UK since 1800.
“The scale of the newspaper publishing industry from the early 19th century onwards is enormous, with many cities and towns publishing several newspapers simultaneously, often aimed at distinct audiences depending on social status, geographical location and political affiliation.”
So far, The Herald is the only Fife paper in the archive and it provides coverage of national events, as well as issues of local and regional importance.
Here are a few examples of entries from that time...
August 20, 1835
“On Monday last a child was found tied up in a blue, white-spotted, cotton handkerchief, by a herd boy, on the property of Lundin, in the parish of Largo. It was covered with earth, and discovered by a corner of the handkerchief being left above ground, and was interred the same day in Largo church-yard. Information, however, having been given to the Procurator Fiscal, the Sheriff and he immediately repaired to Largo and had it disinterred and examined by medical men, and a precognition is now going on respecting it.”
June 10, 1847
“Window breaking – On Saturday morning, several individuals got their windows broken by some fellows who were out a-larking. Such depredations are not only criminal but cowardly, and show that the perpetrators have neither regard to the property of their neighbours, nor possess true courage.”
October 7, 1847
“Serious Accident – On Thursday, while John Henderson, a labourer, was amusing himself with a gun shooting gulls, it unfortunately burst, when part of the barrel struck him on the head, and wounded him so severely that he now lies dangerously ill. Great caution ought to be used in handling fire-arms.”
February 8, 1838
“On Wednesday, a fine girl, about six years of age, being left in a house alone, came in contact with the fire and set her clothes in flames. In this condition she ran to the street when some of the neighbours came to her assistance and extinguished the flames by rolling her amongst the snow, but she was so dreadfully burnt that she expired next day.”
December 6, 1838
“Last week, a great part of the new work in progress at Methil harbour was demolished by the sea. More than a half of what had been done during this season was entirely levelled, and the loss to the contractor must be very serious. Two vessels were in the harbour when this happened, and are completely blockaded by the stone closing the fairway.”