British Library cyber-attack – some tips for workarounds

Have a suggestion for this list? I would love to hear from colleagues & researchers so I can keep it updated. Please email me at Thank you! Smilie[last updated: 15 January 2024, 9:55am]

Following the cyber-attack, our colleagues in the British Library work are working very hard to restore operations and services. As the disruption is likely to continue for a few weeks, below is a list of tips for some workarounds.

BL updates and contacts

Regularly check the British Library blog and their Twitter feed @britishlibrary for updates on the current status of their services. You can contact the BL via Twitter or emailing (be prepared for delay to responses).

On Monday 15 January 2024, the BL released access to an interim catalogue. You can search for the majority of their print holdings.

For ongoing services and disruptions, do check their website.

Do you have BL login? Reset your password

‘We have no evidence that data of our users has been compromised. However, if you have a British Library login and your password is used elsewhere, we recommend changing it as a precautionary measure.’

Tip 1: Finding alternative copies

Researchers can obviously double-check SOLO for alternative copies, but may also want to consider HathiTrust or for older and out-of-copyright material.

Although the British Library catalogue is not available, you can still check for British Library published material in Library Hub Discover. This resource is a database of 204 UK and Irish academic, national & specialist library catalogues. If you want to easily find a copy in another library in the UK, then make friends with Library Hub Discover!

Single Search box of Library Hub Discover with a brief description of its purpose: giving access to detials of materials held in many UK national, academic and specialist libraries. It currently contains 51,612,322 records contributed by 204 institutions.Recommend a Purchase for the Bodleian Libraries (Oxford staff and students only)

If an item is not held in Oxford or it is not accessible because it is a Non-Print Legal Deposit item, Oxford researchers can check SOLO if another Oxford library (incl. a college library) has your book. If not, you can ask for a book to be purchased using our Recommend a Purchase form (SSO required).

Tip 2: Finding and locating BL open shelf collections

The reading rooms are still open for private research and collections, which are on the open shelves, can therefore be used. Very limited, manual collection item ordering in London for general collection items stored in St Pancras (this does not include special collections) – these can be requested by completing paper forms in the Reading Rooms and will be delivered at set times.

So, how do you find St Pancras items when the BL catalogue is down?

In Library Hub Discover’s Advanced Search, you can limit your search to BL St Pancras in the Library section. You can at least copy the shelfmark and make your way to London.

Showing the catalogue record details: Calendar of state papers, domestic series, of the reign of Anne : preserved in the Public Record Office / Public Record Office. London, 1916.

Calendar of state papers, domestic series, of the reign of Anne : preserved in the Public Record Office. British Library SPHOA HLR 941 (RS 129 )


The BL can only issue temporary reader tickets at the moment. If you already have a card and it needs renewing, this will probably be slightly easier than those who need to register for the first time. Contact if you need help but be prepared for a delayed response as our colleagues will be terrifically busy with other enquiries.

Tip 3: Accessing British Library website content

BL websites will have been archived, probably to varying degrees of depth, by the Internet Archives’s Wayback Machine.

If you have the URL of the webpage you want to access, just type it into the search box and you will be presented with a calendar indicating the days and years when a snapshot of the webpage was taken:

Showing a graph with indications when the BL website was archived with a visual calendar below highlighting in blue or green the dates and year when snapshots where taken. There can be clicked on.

Wayback Machine showing when the BL website on its Collections ( were archived.

Some formatting may be a bit odd and, depending how deeply the content was crawled, you may not always get the full content. It also loads quite slowly. However, I was able to listen to some sound recordings:

A sound recording from the BL Collections website Sisterhood. An image and recording of Ann Oakley discussing motherhood and depression.

A sound recording from the BL Collections website ‘Sisterhood and After: The Women’s Liberation Oral History Project’ where Ann Oakley discussed motherhood and depression. Interview 11 May 2012. Shelfmark: C1420/56

So, how do you find the URL of a BL website?

This becomes a little more ‘interesting’. The easiest is to Google, hopefully find the webpage you are interested in, make a note of the URL string and put it into the Wayback Machine. Please note that this may not always work, if e.g. names of URL were changed over time.

A google search for British Librayr collections where the URL can be seen.

You may also come across links to the BL webpages from other sources. This can of course include the BL’s own Blogs which don’t appear to be affected by the cyberattack. A list of BL blogs is webarchived at

Please note that this technique will not work for URLs of content in databases with dynamic content such as library catalogues, archive catalogues, etc. None of these are crawled by the Wayback Machine.

At this point it might be a good idea to upskill your Google searching skills. You can target your searches more effectively with certain commands. Check out our Advanced Google Searching teaching materials and video recording.

Tip 4. Looking for the ESTC?

The English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC) is the definitive union catalogue for early British or English language books, covering publications printed before 1800. The BL website for ESTC is down.

A temporary version of the pre-1700 ESTC is hosted at

However, if you are fortunate enough to have access to a library which has Early English Books Online and the Eighteenth Century Collections Online, then that is a great alternative because you can then also look at the digital copy.

If you are not a member of Oxford University and you are just searching for citations, then you can still search Oxford’s SOLO from anywhere in the world:

A SOLO list of results including a citation to: Epulario, or The Italian banquet wherein is shewed the maner how to dresse and prepare all kind of flesh, foules or fishes. As also how to make sauces, tartes, pies, &c. After the maner of all countries. With an addition of many other profitable and necessary things. Translated out of Italian into English.

Searching ‘eebo cooking banquet’ in SOLO’s Oxford Collections.

Tip 5. Looking for BL Special Collections?

You may be able to use other sources to find descriptions of BL Special Collections. It can be a bit tricky but here are some suggestions:

Both The National Archives and The Archives Hub describe collections held in repositories in the UK, including the British Library. You can limit your search to just the British Library and get some description and shelfmarks. In some instances, the description also mentions microfilmed versions which may be accessible in another library.

A search in The National Archives Discovery tool for India Office material held in the British Library.

Many BL archival and rare book materials have been digitised in source databases, such as the East India Company (Modules I-V). You can get a list of these databases by searching our Databases A-Z for “British Library”. Current staff and students can then of course access these, using SSO for remote access.

Databases A-Z: "british library" brings up 30 results of which the first one is mentioned: British Library Newspapers, Parts I-V. (1732-1950)

Databases A-Z with a phrase search “british library”.

If you are an external reader and would like to register with the Bodleian Libraries, check out our information how to join.


There are a few other things one can try. If any Oxford researchers for British & West European history need any help, do get in touch by emailing or see our list of other subject librarians.

If you have a disability, you can also contact to ask if we can find an alternative.

Wishing our BL colleagues all the very best as they wrestle with a major challenge, Isabel Holowaty, Deputy Head of Humanities Libraries & History Librarian (Research)

Remote access to British Library resources – more databases available

[updted 15 June 2022]

You may or may not know that the British Library offers remote access to a small selection of their electronic resources if you are a registered Reader Pass holder.

The list of those databases which are now available under this arrangement has grown.

They include the following which are not available in Oxford:

  • African Newspapers, Series 1 & 2, 1800-1934
  • American Broadsides and Ephemera
  • American Civil War: Letters and Diaries
  • American Indian Histories and Cultures
  • Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Federal Government Records & Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Parts 1 & 2
  • Book Review Digest Retrospective: 1903-1982
  • British Online Archives all collections including:
    • BBC Handbooks and Listener Research
    • Colonial and Missionary records
    • Colonial Law in Africa, 1808-1966
    • Communist Party of Great Britain
    • Industrial Revolution
    • Kenya under colonial rule, in Government reports, 1907-1964
    • records of Britain’s relationship with the Americas, Asia and Africa
    • War diaries from the Imperial War Museum: The Great War
  • British records on the Atlantic World, 1700-1900
  • Caribbean Newspapers 1718-1876
  • China, America and the Pacific
  • China: Culture and Society
  • China: Trade, Politics and Culture, 1793-1980
  • Communist Historical Newspapers Collection 1919-2013
  • Communist Party of Great Britain
  • Confidential Print: Latin America
  • Creation of Israel: British Foreign Office Correspondence on Palestine and Transjordan, 1940-1948
  • Early American Newspapers, Series 1 & 2
  • Everyday Life and Women in America c 1810-1920
  • Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive 1880-2015
  • Foreign Broadcast Information Service 1941-1934
  • Foreign Office Files for India, Pakistan and Afghanistan
  • Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration and Cultural Exchange
  • History Vault: African American Police League Records, 1961-1988
  • History Vault: Struggle for Women’s Rights, 1880-1990: Organizational Records
  • Meiji Japan
  • Men’s Magazine Archive
  • Le Monde, 1944-2000 (part of ProQuest Historical Newspapers)
  • The Nixon Years
  • Rand Daily Mail 1902-1985
  • Records of the Raj
  • South Asian Newspapers 1864-1922
  • Travel Writing, Spectacle and World History [covers 1835-1976]

If you don’t have a reader pass, then check if / how you can register with the BL.

If you have a reader pass, then check how to can extend it.

Email in the first instance if you have any problems accessing the resources.

Also useful:

British Library periodicals from Colindale available to order again

Taken from the British Library news:

“From February 17 periodicals formerly held at Colindale – and embargoed since June last year – will be available to order again.

The majority of periodicals, amounting to some 24,000 titles, have been moved to Boston Spa and will be available to order into any St Pancras Reading Room within 48 hours. A small number of high-use periodicals have been moved to St Pancras and will be available to order into any St Pancras Reading Room within 70 minutes.”

Order via BL Explore.

Microfilms will become available in March when the new News and Media Reading Room opens on the St Pancras site.

The British Library’s full announcement has further details.

Find all HFL blogs posts


BL’s Colindale Newspaper Reading Room closes today (8 Nov 2013)

ColindaleAs you may or may not know, the BL’s Colindale Newspaper Reading Room closes today. Vast volumes of newspapers have been moved to Boston Spa where the Newspaper Storage Building (NSB) is apparently substantially complete. The newspapers moving to NSB are expected to become available again in autumn 2014.

The BL’s News and Media Reading Room will open in March 2014. Note that you will need a full BL reader pass to get access.

“Colindale users who currently have a Newspaper Library Reader Pass are therefore strongly encouraged to upgrade to a full British Library Reader Pass, which they will need in order to access the collections held at St Pancras. You can find full information about registering for a British Library Reader Pass.”

“Resources that can be consulted in any of the Reading Rooms include the British Newspaper Archive which features nearly 7 million searchable pages of newspapers from across the UK. “ Please note that BNA does not offer us to take out an institutional license.

Taken from the BL Collections Move Bulletin October 2013.

Searching for newspapers in BL Explore

The BL has a special newspaper catalogue which is very useful for locating the titles of newspapers published in towns or region. Here’s what to do:

  1. Go to BL Explore
  2. Click on Advanced search
  3. In Search Scope, select Newspaper Library
  4. In the search form, change Anywhere to Place Name
  5. Type in any place name and you will get a listing of newspapers held at the BL.
  6. Search by newspaper title in SOLO to see if Oxford has the newspaper.
  7. Bob’s your uncle.

Explore BL newspaper place search


Related links:

Daily Mail Historical Archive 1896-2004 – available in the British Library


Whilst the Daily Mail Historical Archive 1896-2004 is high on the modern history desiderata list, it is currently not possible for us to fund the purchase at this point in time. While efforts are ongoing to secure access, Oxford users who are very keen on this key 20th century tabloid may like to know that the British Library has bought access to this database. It is listed in their eResources list.

The Daily Mail is a well-known British daily tabloid which was first published on 4 May 1896 by Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe, and his brother Harold, later Lord Rothermere. This resource provides access to more than 100 years of this publication, which boasts a circulation now of over 2 million.

It can be viewed in full digital facsimile form, with copious advertisements, news stories and images that capture 20th century culture and society.

What next?

Before using eresources in the British Library, you will need to be a registered user of the BL. Get started with Using the BL #1.

If you need guidance on using the collections, check out Using the BL #2 for details of guides, training and enquiry services.

Related links

What are other history databases are available in the British Library but not in Oxford?

World Newsreels Online 1929-1966 – now available in the British Library

[reposted from the British Library Sound and Vision blog.]

Sampler video for World Newsreels Online

Sampler video for World Newsreels Online

“This is a collection from Alexander Street Press of 500 hours (8,000 individual items) of newsreels (filmed news for cinema release) from Japan, France, the Netherlands and the USA, including wartime propaganda newsreels and a complete run of the important The March of Time series in its American edition (the British release version was slightly different). Most of the films have been fully transcribed, with transcriptions available in synchronisation presentation alongside the video. The contents include:

Nippon News—36 hours of Japanese newsreels from 1940-48 with English transcripts.

Four French newsreels – 75 hours of fully translated and transcribed news items.

The March of Time—Full run of this American series, 115 hours of fully transcribed content, 1935-51.

United Newsreel—More than 35 hours of 1942-46 American weekly newsreel produced by the US Office of War Information, complete with transcripts.

Universal Newsreel—More than 200 hours of content with full transcripts from Universal Studios’s bi-weekly series that ran 1929-46.

Polygoon Profliti—87 hours of Dutch newsreel 1939-45.”

Re-blogged from

Related links

Training opportunities coming up for historians

Training opportunities in the Bodleian Libraries

During the next few weeks, the Bodleian Libraries will running workshops on open access, sources for historians, RefWorks and reference managements:

open accessOpen Access Oxford – What’s Happening? (various dates – see below) Researchers in receipt of grants from RCUK funding councils issued after 1April 2013 are required to make their research papers open access. Come along to one of our briefing on open access to find out about Green vs. Gold open access publishing; funder mandates and publisher policies; the Oxford Research Archive (ORA) and Symplectic; and how to find more information and help on open access. Who are these sessions for?  These session are open to current members of Oxford University only and are designed for research support staff, librarians, academics and researchers.


  • WISER: Open Access Oxford – what’s happening? (all subjects) (Thurs 16 May 11.00-12.00) (wk 4) > Book Now
  • WISER: Open Access Oxford – what’s happening? (all subjects) (Wed 29 May 11.00-12.00) (wk 6) > Book Now
  • Open Access for historians – (Wed. 5 June, 13:00-14:00, Rees Davies Room, History Faculty) > no booking required

WISER Workshops

WISER: Online Resources for Historians (Tue 28 May 9.15-10.30) (wk 6)– A general introduction to the vast range of electronic resources which are available for all historical periods for British and West European history including  bibliographical databases, biographical and reference research aids, e-books and ejournals, web portals and collections of online primary source materials.  > Book Now

WISER: Sources for US History (Tue 28 May 10.45-12.15) (wk 6) – Introduction to key information sources for the study of colonial America and US history up to 1990. Starting with finding tools to locate material, examples of source materials will then be shown including archival, microform, printed/online collections and useful web portals and audiovisual collections. > Book Now

WISER: WISERInformation Sources for African Studies , Fri 7 Jun 9.15-10.45 (TT week 7) – This session will cover finding tools for locating African Studies materials, key portals and gateways for African Studies and online archives of primary texts. Starting with a presentation the session will also include time for participants to try out some of the resources demonstrated. > Book Now

WISER: Sources for Medievalists, Wed 12 June 14.00-16.00 (TT week 8)
This interdisciplinary session will provide a general overview of  e-resources relevant for British and Western European medieval studies. It will cover bibliographical databases, biographical and reference tools, web portals and collections of online primary source materials including Anglo-Saxon sources, Greek/Latin texts, chronicles, charters and literary works. > Book Now

RefWorks for Humanities (Wed 29 May 9.15 – 12.15) (wk 6) – RefWorks is an online tool which allows you to manage your references, insert them into your work, automatically generate bibliographies and easily switch between citation styles. This introduction is open to all, but the section on importing references will focus on Humanities examples.
Who is this session for? Postgraduates, researchers and academics and undergraduates wishing to use reference management software > Book Now

For Historians: RefWorks for Your Thesis, Wed 5 June 14.00-16.00 (TT week 7) *repeated** Thur 13 June 10.30-12.30 (TT week 8)

This session is primarily aimed at 2nd year History Undergraduates and will give a basic introduction on how to use RefWorks for your dissertation and will highlight some of its key features. The session is also open other postgraduates and academics in the History Faculty. > Book now

WISER: Tech Tools – Reference Management (Fri 31 May 9.15-12.15) (wk 6) – Keeping track of your references and formatting them correctly for your thesis or publication is a chore. Reference management software makes it easy and is worth investigating. This introductory session gives an overview of how it works and the pros and cons of RefWorks, EndNote, Zotero and Mendeley.
Who is this session for? Postgraduates, researchers and academics and undergraduates wishing to use reference management software > Book Now

Keeping up with Bodleian Libraries training opportunities: Why not follow join our mailing list by sending an empty email to, follow us on Twitter at or visit the BodWiser blog at

Questions? – Please contact

Training opportunities in the British Library

Finding Early Western Printed Books in the British Library (4 June, 11:00-12:15). This is a new workshop offered by British Library Rare Books Reference Specialists. It provides an overview of reference resources which can help trace hard-to-find early printed material (ca.1455- ca.1900) and enhance using the Library’s main catalogue, Explore the British Library.

Information Skills-Navigating research in the British Library (15 May and 12 June, 3-4pm). This course covers the basic skills needed for someone starting a research project. It will show you how to locate information on your subject within the British Library Collections.

These sessions are free.  You can book a place by email (

Related Links

WISER Workshops LibGuide | HFL Training webpage | British Library training sessions webpage

Electronic resources available in the British Library

Using the BL #3

Although Oxford’s e-resources collections are very good and have expanded recently, there are still many databases which are not held in Oxford. This is usually for reasons of cost. The good news is that the British Library provides access to many of those to its readers in its reading rooms.

The following history eresources are available in the BL but not in Oxford. See the BL’s Electronic resources in our reading rooms for detailed descriptions. Additionally a small selection of databases can be accessed remotely if you are a registered reader (also marked with * below).


  • (Library edition)
  • Book Review Digest Retrospective: 1908-1982
  • Index Translationum

British & Irish sources

  • BBC handbooks, annual reports and accounts, 1927-2001/2
  • BBC Listener Research Department, 1937-c.1950
  • British Politics & Society (part of Nineteenth Century Collections Online)
  • British Theatre, Music and Literature: High and Popular Culture (part of Nineteenth Century Collections Online)
  • British Records on the Atlantic World, 1700- 1900
  • Chamberlain Papers
  • Chatham House Online Archive, 1920-2008
  • Communist Party of Great Britain archives (British Online Archives)
  • Industrial Revolution (British Online Archives)
  • Prize Papers Online
  • Secret Files from World Wars to Cold War
  • State Papers Online 18th Century, 1714-1782
  • War diaries from the Imperial War Museum: The Great War (British Online Archives)

Newspapers & magazines

  • Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive 1880-2000
  • Le Monde, 1944-2000
  • The Tablet: the international Catholic news weekly 1840 to date

European sources

  • Akten des Kaiserlichen Reichshofrats 1486 to 1766
  • Archivum Secretum Vaticanum, Registra Vaticana
  • Registra Vaticana
  • L’Affaire Dreyfus et la Création de la France modern
  • Journaux de la Revolution de 1848 (Newspapers of the French Revolution 1848)
  • La France pendant la guerre 1939-1945: Resistance et journaux de Vichy (Voices from Wartime France 1939-1945: Clandestine Resistance and Vichy)
  • National Socialism, Holocaust, Resistance and Exile 1933-1945
  • Prize Papers Online

US sources

  • American Civil War: Letters and Diaries *
  • American Consumer Culture: market research & American business 1935-1965
  • Black Freedom Struggle in the 20th Century: Organizational Records and Personal Papers, Parts 1 & 2
  • Early American Newspapers, Series I
  • US Congressional Hearings Digital Collection, 1824-1979

Global sources

  • Global Commodities: Trade, Exploration and Cultural Exchange
  • Colonial and Missionary Records (British Online Archives)
  • World Newspaper Archive: African Newspapers, 1800-1922 *
  • Apartheid South Africa 1948-80
  • Middle East Manuscripts Online 1: Pioneer Orientalists
  • Asia: Official British Documents 1945-65
  • Asia and the West: Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange (part of Nineteenth Century Collections Online)
  • The Indian papers of Colonel Clive and Brigadier-General Carnac, 1752-1774
  • Records of the Raj
  • Southeast Asia in the Ming Reign Chronicles (14th-17th Centuries)
  • China: Trade, Politics and Culture, 1793-1980
  • Mass Culture and Entertainment in Russia
  • Mass Media in Russia, 1908-1918
  • The Current Digest of the Russian Press Digital Archive 1949 to the present

What next?

Before using these eresources in the British Library, you will need to be a registered user of the BL. Get started with Using the BL #1.

If you need guidance on using the collections, check out Using the BL #2 for details of guides, training and enquiry services.

Quick links

History eresources and desiderata: Find out more about electronic resources for History being considered for purchase, details of current trials and give feedback.

If a database or ejournal is not yet on the History Desiderata, you can Recommend an e-resource.

Expert support and training in the British Library

Using the BL #2

This latest blog in the Using the BL series looks at the support and training that is available to students. You will need to be a registered reader (see Using the BL #1) if you want to benefit from the support though many enquiries can be made in advance and remotely.

So, if you have an enquiry, contact the BL’s Reference team. They can help you with bibliographical enquiries, advise you which collections are best to use and how, and provide a range of workshops and introductory sessions to help you make best of the library. You can also search their Knowledge Base for answers to questions asked by readers in the past.

The British Library runs Training programme 2013 which are free workshops covering “Finding Early Western Printed Books in the British Library”, “Information Skills-Navigating research in the British Library”, “Making the most of the Humanities Reading Room” and Wikipedia workshops. You will need to book a place.

Usually in winter, Doctoral Open Days “offer specially tailored workshops and networking opportunities, focusing on your research subject, to help you get the most out of our resources and facilities.” Details of dates will be emailed to the History Faculty graduate training mailing list. They are very popular and early booking is strong advised. The next ones are not until late autumn.

Lost looking for sources in the BL maze? A good starting point are the guides. Search by subject, time-period, geographic location, language or resource type. The video “Exploring the collections: the researcher” is an informative introduction what is around – as  well as being artistic, creative and a 2 minute joy to watch.

Related links

How to register and use the British Library (Using the BL #1).

Electronic resources in the British Library not held in Oxford (Using the BL #3)

How to register and use the British Library: introductory videos

Using the BL #1

Starting work on your thesis?

The time comes when a historian will simply have to make a trip to the British Library. This may be because you need to consult a book which nobody else in the UK has or because you want to make use of their extensive archival collections, which span all periods and formats (manuscripts, rare books, philatelic collections, maps, sound). Whatever your reason, it’s a fabulous experience in an amazing building with exquisite collections – so this blog is to encourage you to make the next step.

Starting out

You may be daunted by the thought of using the British Library. In the beginning, true, you will have go through the trouble of registering. You will need proof of id and address, proof of your status at Oxford University, have a list of the books or archives you want to consult and finally a supporting statement from your supervisor. My advice is to get that precious letter from your supervisor before he/she runs off to exotic but sadly internet-free places!

Easy introduction to using the BL

Check out this lovely British Library video series to learn about how to register and how to use the library. I hope you are re-assured that it is worth the effort:

Quick links: