The British Library is planning to make more than half of its collection of local, regional and national newspapers available online.

The British Library's collection, which comprises 750 million pages dating back to the 1700s, is currently only available on microfilm or in bound volumes at the Library itself.

However, the Library will work with Brightsolid, which owns and Friends Reunited, to digitise some 40 million pages so they can be accessed by web users.

The project will concentrate on papers that focus on key events from the 19th century, such as the Crimean War, the Boer War and the suffragette movement.

It is expected to take ten years, with around four million pages being digitised within the first two years.

"Historic newspapers are an invaluable resource for historians, researchers, genealogists, students and many others, bringing past events and people to life with great immediacy and in rich detail. Mass digitisation unlocks the riches of our newspaper collections by making them available online to users across the UK and around the world," said Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library.

"By making these pages fully searchable we will transform a research process which previously relied on scrolling through page after page of microfilm or print. It will help the newspaper collection to remain relevant for a new generation of researchers, more used to accessing research information via their laptop than travelling to a physical location."

See also: British Library to offer 65,000 free eBooks