Journal Article

Into the Dark Domain: The UK Web Archive as a Source for the Contemporary History of Public Health

Martin Gorsky

in Social History of Medicine

Volume 28, issue 3, pages 596-616
Published in print August 2015 | ISSN: 0951-631X
Published online June 2015 | e-ISSN: 1477-4666 | DOI:

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  • Social and Cultural History
  • History of Medicine


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With the migration of the written record from paper to digital format, archivists and historians must urgently consider how web content should be conserved, retrieved and analysed. The British Library has recently acquired a large number of UK domain websites, captured 1996–2010, which is colloquially termed the Dark Domain Archive while technical issues surrounding user access are resolved. This article reports the results of an invited pilot project that explores methodological issues surrounding use of this archive. It asks how the relationship between UK public health and local government was represented on the web, drawing on the ‘declinist’ historiography to frame its questions. It points up some difficulties in developing an aggregate picture of web content due to duplication of sites. It also highlights their potential for thematic and discourse analysis, using both text and image, illustrated through an argument about the contradictory rationale for public health policy under New Labour.

Keywords: methodology; websites; local government; public health

Journal Article.  9629 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History ; History of Medicine

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