A unique visual archive of 19th century Victorian Britain, including illustrations and photographs of events ranging from the Great Exhibition of 1851 to the Boer war, will be available online for the first time from today.

The Illustrated London News archive holds 250,000 pages and as many as three-quarters of a million illustrations, from as far back as 1842.

At its peak, ILN had a circulation of about 300,000 and was the publication of choice for the Victorian middle classes, transforming illustrations into a credible, factual, news reporting tool. Previously, illustration had been used mainly for political caricatures or for sensational events like public hangings.

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