On 24 April, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek België (Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, Royal Library of Belgium) launched BelgicaPress, an online resource providing access to nine digitised historical Belgian newspapers. Over 4 million pages have been digitised. They cover 1831 to 1950 for the following newspapers:
L’Echo De La Presse, Gazet Van Brussel, Het Handelsblad, L’Indépendance Belge (printed in Britain), Le Messager De Gand, De Nieuwe Gids, De Nieuwe Standaard and Het Nieuws Van Den Dag.
However, only content before 1919 is freely accessible over the internet. That is still an amazing 1.2 million pages and particularly good news for 19th century and World War I historians.
How do you spot free content? In your search results list, look out for:Content after 1919 can only be consulted in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek België itself. And how do you spot those? In your search results list, look out for:
Thanks to OCR, the content is full-text searchable. However, I have found it somewhat temperamental. For instance, Hitler also retrieves bitter and Ritter.
Once you have an image on the screen, you can zoom in really well and you can pick up a permalink. I particularly like the ability to select a section which then automatically gets enlarged. A nice touch.
Despite a few niggles, this resource should be hugely welcomed by researchers and the Koninklijke Bibliotheek België should be praised for its work.
As it’s so useful, it is now also listed in Databases A-Z and SOLO.
[updated 3 August 2023]