Google: 200 years of news

[Cross-posted to Revise & Dissent]

Hyde Park
You can run, but you can’t Hyde. Photo by teach­er­a­fael.

Google now has opened up a news archive reach­ing back a couple of cen­tur­ies, reports the BBC. My first impres­sions of mixed. I looked for Sir Arthur Evans, and found the vast major­ity of stor­ies were behind pay­walls. However Time has open archives, so you can read about a Tale of Two Palaces and the Truth About Knossos?. If you’re plan­ning a little hero-worship of bio­graph­ical blog­ging there there’s also scope for sur­prise. Sir Arthur Evans is men­tioned in passing with another story, Knights Must Play, about Sir Leo Chiozza Money. I wouldn’t men­tion it as Evans is only briefly named, were it not for descrip­tion of Chiozza’s arrest in Hyde Park:

The per­sons on the chairs were, in the opin­ion of the con­stables, “behav­ing in a man­ner reas­on­ably likely to offend against pub­lic decency.” Therefore strong hands were laid upon the young woman, who remained pass­ive, and upon the gen­tle­man, who roared: “Hands off! I’m not the usual rif­fraff! I’m a man of substance!”

Isaac Asimov wrote a story The Dead Past, in which an ancient his­tor­ian wanted to use a chro­no­scope, a device that could peer into the past, to exam­ine ancient Carthage. He was denied access to the chro­no­scope and so sought to make his own. What he found was a device which could see any­where and any­when could see any­where and any­when. Privacy became a thing of the past.

Google isn’t the cause, but it is a symp­tom of an inform­a­tion soci­ety where pri­vacy will become a thing of the past. Our gen­er­a­tion will be par­tic­u­larly rich pick­ings as we don’t yet know how bad things could be. It’s a historian’s dream, but per­haps the subject’s nightmare.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.