More than 40m pages could be scanned and digitised in the first two years
The British Library has announced a 10-year project to make 40m pages from its newspaper archive available online.
The record of more than 300 years of journalism, including coverage of the Crimean and Boer Wars, will be put on the web by the publisher BrightSolid.
The move will spare historians having to search the current hard copy and microfilm collection.
The digital material will be made free to users at the main library site at St Pancras, north London.
A charge will be levied for searches conducted from outside the library.
The British Library's archive contains about 750m newspaper pages, including 52,000 local, regional, national and international titles.
Over 10 years the project will give internet users their first chance to search stories and articles on international events such as the Crimean and Boer wars and the Suffragette movement.
Pages written during the census years between 1841 and 1911 will also be made available online.
BrightSolid said it aims to complete the digitisation of more than 4m pages within the first two years.
Lynne Brindley, chief executive of the British Library, said: "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.
"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."
BrightSolid chief execuitve Chris van der Kuyl said: "Digitisation will mean that those people who haven't previously been able to access the physical resource will now be able to access it from anywhere at anytime.
"It will also offer a unique insight into major events and key periods of historical interest."
The hard copies of the pages will be moved to Boston Spa, West Yorkshire.
A digital copy of the scanned material will also be archived in the library's national collection.