Friday, September 08, 2006
As a teenager, history was the class in which I daydreamed -- the one that required memorization of long lists of kings, of battles, of arcane disputes that led to war. It was something I left behind when I graduated from high school and went on to the "real" things in life.
But history was not done with me. Many years later, I drifted from reading George Orwell's novels 1984 and Animal Farm and Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon to reading more about the Russian Revolution. The evolution of the Bolshevik Old Guard from scruffy revolutionaries fighting a stifling monarchy to becoming ruthless dictators for Stalin's killing machine was fascinating. History had drawn me into its web. History isn't a dry laundry list of the likes of "Ozymandias". It is what everyone in any era does, full of rich detail.
And now you can find those contemporary details (and more current ones as always) through a new archive search feature of Google News. This new feature can help you explore history through archives of news and other information sources. You can search for events, people and ideas, and see how they have been described over time. If you were to seek information on the 1969 moon landing, now you can find original coverage from that year, as well as analysis, news and commentary from the 37 years following.
Based on relevance, the archive results on Google News include freely available articles from sources such as TIME.com, The Guardian and many others, as well as snippets of articles available for a fee or via subscription. These may come from news organizations like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, and also from news aggregators like AccessMyLibrary.com, ThomsonGale, Factiva, HighBeam™ Research, LexisNexis and others.
In addition to finding the most relevant articles for your query, you can get an historical overview of the results by browsing an automatically created timeline. Articles related to a single story or theme within a given time period are grouped together to enable you to see a broad perspective on the events. The archive search results include articles about an incredibly wide variety of topics, people and events over the last 200 years or so. About kings and battles, yes, but also about athletes and games, political dramas, crimes, romances and much, much else.
History is often presented to us with a viewpoint many years after it happens -- and it's frequently smoothed over in many ways, and for many reasons. Here's hoping archive search in Google News can help you read about history as it has unfolded, and explore and understand the past for yourself.