What is a newspaper? What are the different roles that newspapers have played in the past and what role(s) should they play today? Recent changes in the media landscape have led to a renewed interest in these questions. But the English term newspaper has always been somewhat misleading. The French term journal is suggestive of a unit of time (the day) but lacks explicit reference to the material form of the publication or its subject matter. The English term brings both to the surface: news-paper. Today the paper part of the term may seem like a reminder of another era in which physical newspapers were delivered to doorsteps, unfolded and refolded in Tube carriages, and left on public benches for the next person to enjoy or discard. News is increasingly encountered on computer screens, smart phones, and tablets. At many times in the past, however, it was arguably the news part of the term that could have seemed inadequate. The definition of news may be elusive, but it is clear that newspapers have almost never been limited to accounts of recent events. In eighteenth-century Britain and North America, newspapers contained letters to the printer on various subjects, as well as excerpts from books, official notices, and advertisements (which often took up most of the first page). In the nineteenth century, poems, short stories, and serial novels took on prominence in many newspapers, increasing their interest for readers. At other times, such as the British Isles in the 1640s and the United States in the 1790s, newspapers have aligned themselves with particular factions or advocated specific causes. The fact that such newspapers intervened in politics makes them all the more important to study, as Laurent Curelly’s book on The Moderate (1648-49) reveals. At that time the preferred term was newsbook rather than newspaper. Most news periodicals of the 1640s were short quarto pamphlets rather than the larger folios that later came to dominate English journalism. The form and content of news publications has varied significantly over time, and it is only by closely examining individual examples that we can begin to understand what role newspapers (or newsbooks or whatever else they were called) have played at different moments in the past.