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. (December 2017)
1785 to 1890
Front page of The Times
from 4 December 1788
The Times was founded by publisher John Walter on 1 January 1785 as The Daily Universal Register, with Walter in the role of editor. Walter had lost his job by the end of 1784 after the insurance company where he worked went bankrupt due to losses from a Jamaican hurricane. Unemployed, Walter began a new business venture. Henry Johnson had recently invented the logography, a new typography that was reputedly faster and more precise (although three years later, it was proved less efficient than advertised). Walter bought the logography's patent and with it opened a printing house to produce a daily advertising sheet. The first publication of the newspaper The Daily Universal Register in Great Britain was 1 January 1785. Unhappy because the word Universal was frequently omitted from the name, Walter changed the title after 940 editions on 1 January 1788 to The Times. In 1803, Walter handed ownership and editorship to his son of the same name. In spite of Walter Sr's sixteen-month stay in Newgate Prison for libel printed in The Times, his pioneering efforts to obtain Continental news, especially from France, helped build the paper's reputation among policy makers and financiers.
The Times used contributions from significant figures in the fields of politics, science, literature, and the arts to build its reputation. For much of its early life, the profits of The Times were very large and the competition minimal, so it could pay far better than its rivals for information or writers. Beginning in 1814, the paper was printed on the new steam-driven cylinder press developed by Friedrich Koenig. In 1815, The Times had a circulation of 5,000.
Thomas Barnes was appointed general editor in 1817. In the same year, the paper's printer James Lawson, died and passed the business onto his son John Joseph Lawson (1802–1852). Under the editorship of Barnes and his successor in 1841, John Thadeus Delane, the influence of The Times rose to great heights, especially in politics and amongst the City of London. Peter Fraser and Edward Sterling were two noted journalists, and gained for The Times the pompous/satirical nickname 'The Thunderer' (from "We thundered out the other day an article on social and political reform."). The increased circulation and influence of the paper was based in part to its early adoption of the steam-driven rotary printing press. Distribution via steam trains to rapidly growing concentrations of urban populations helped ensure the profitability of the paper and its growing influence.
The Times was the first newspaper to send war correspondents to cover particular conflicts. W. H. Russell, the paper's correspondent with the army in the Crimean War, was immensely influential with his dispatches back to England.
In other events of the nineteenth century, The Times opposed the repeal of the Corn Laws until the number of demonstrations convinced the editorial board otherwise, and only reluctantly supported aid to victims of the Irish Potato Famine. It enthusiastically supported the Great Reform Bill of 1832, which reduced corruption and increased the electorate from 400,000 people to 800,000 people (still a small minority of the population). During the American Civil War, The Times represented the view of the wealthy classes, favouring the secessionists, but it was not a supporter of slavery.
The third John Walter, the founder's grandson, succeeded his father in 1847. The paper continued as more or less independent, but from the 1850s The Times was beginning to suffer from the rise in competition from the penny press, notably The Daily Telegraph and The Morning Post.
During the 19th century, it was not infrequent for the Foreign Office to approach The Times and ask for continental intelligence, which was often superior to that conveyed by official sources.
1890 to 1981
The Times faced financial extinction in 1890 under Arthur Fraser Walter, but it was rescued by an energetic editor, Charles Frederic Moberly Bell. During his tenure (1890–1911), The Times became associated with selling the Encyclopædia Britannica using aggressive American marketing methods introduced by Horace Everett Hooper and his advertising executive, Henry Haxton. Due to legal fights between the Britannica's two owners, Hooper and Walter Montgomery Jackson, The Times severed its connection in 1908 and was bought by pioneering newspaper magnate, Alfred Harmsworth, later Lord Northcliffe.
In editorials published on 29 and 31 July 1914, Wickham Steed, the Times's Chief Editor, argued that the British Empire should enter World War I. On 8 May 1920, also under the editorship of Steed, The Times in an editorial endorsed the anti-Semitic fabrication The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion as a genuine document, and called Jews the world's greatest danger. In the leader entitled "The Jewish Peril, a Disturbing Pamphlet: Call for Inquiry", Steed wrote about The Protocols of the Elders of Zion:
What are these 'Protocols'? Are they authentic? If so, what malevolent assembly concocted these plans and gloated over their exposition? Are they forgery? If so, whence comes the uncanny note of prophecy, prophecy in part fulfilled, in part so far gone in the way of fulfillment?".
The following year, when Philip Graves, the Constantinople (modern Istanbul) correspondent of The Times, exposed The Protocols as a forgery, The Times retracted the editorial of the previous year.
In 1922, John Jacob Astor, son of the 1st Viscount Astor, bought The Times from the Northcliffe estate. The paper gained a measure of notoriety in the 1930s with its advocacy of German appeasement; editor Geoffrey Dawson was closely allied with those in the government who practised appeasement, most notably Neville Chamberlain. Candid news reports by Norman Ebbut from Berlin that warned of warmongering were rewritten in London to support the appeasement policy.
Kim Philby, a double agent with primary allegiance to the Soviet Union, was a correspondent for the newspaper in Spain during the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s. Philby was admired for his courage in obtaining high-quality reporting from the front lines of the bloody conflict. He later joined British Military Intelligence (MI6) during World War II, was promoted into senior positions after the war ended, and defected to the Soviet Union when discovery was inevitable in 1963.
Between 1941 and 1946, the left-wing British historian E. H. Carr was assistant editor. Carr was well known for the strongly pro-Soviet tone of his editorials. In December 1944, when fighting broke out in Athens between the Greek Communist ELAS and the British Army, Carr in a Times leader sided with the Communists, leading Winston Churchill to condemn him and the article in a speech to the House of Commons. As a result of Carr's editorial, The Times became popularly known during that stage of World War II as "the threepenny Daily Worker" (the price of the Communist Party's Daily Worker being one penny).
On 3 May 1966 it resumed printing news on the front page – previously the front page had been given over to small advertisements, usually of interest to the moneyed classes in British society. Also in 1966, the Royal Arms, which had been a feature of the newspaper's masthead since its inception, was abandoned. In 1967 members of the Astor family sold the paper to Canadian publishing magnate Roy Thomson. His Thomson Corporation brought it under the same ownership as The Sunday Times to form Times Newspapers Limited.
An industrial dispute prompted the management to shut the paper for nearly a year from 1 December 1978 to 12 November 1979.
The Thomson Corporation management were struggling to run the business due to the 1979 energy crisis and union demands. Management sought a buyer who was in a position to guarantee the survival of both titles, and had the resources and was committed to funding the introduction of modern printing methods.
Several suitors appeared, including Robert Maxwell, Tiny Rowland and Lord Rothermere; however, only one buyer was in a position to meet the full Thomson remit, Australian media magnate Rupert Murdoch. Robert Holmes à Court, another Australian magnate had previously tried to buy The Times in 1980.
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In 1981, The Times and The Sunday Times were bought from Thomson by Rupert Murdoch's News International. The acquisition followed three weeks of intensive bargaining with the unions by company negotiators John Collier and Bill O'Neill. Murdoch gave legal undertakings to maintain separate journalism resources for the two titles. The Royal Arms was reintroduced to the masthead at about this time, but whereas previously it had been that of the reigning monarch, it would now be that of the House of Hanover, who were on the throne when the newspaper was founded.
After 14 years as editor, William Rees-Mogg resigned upon completion of the change of ownership. Murdoch began to make his mark on the paper by appointing Harold Evans as his replacement. One of his most important changes was the introduction of new technology and efficiency measures. Between March 1981 and May 1982, following agreement with print unions, the hot-metal Linotype printing process used to print The Times since the 19th century was phased out and replaced by computer input and photo-composition. This allowed print room staff at The Times and The Sunday Times to be reduced by half. However, direct input of text by journalists ("single-stroke" input) was still not achieved, and this was to remain an interim measure until the Wapping dispute of 1986, when The Times moved from New Printing House Square in Gray's Inn Road (near Fleet Street) to new offices in Wapping.
Robert Fisk, seven times British International Journalist of the Year, resigned as foreign correspondent in 1988 over what he saw as "political censorship" of his article on the shooting-down of Iran Air Flight 655 in July 1988. He wrote in detail about his reasons for resigning from the paper due to meddling with his stories, and the paper's pro-Israel stance.
In June 1990 The Times ceased its policy of using courtesy titles ("Mr", "Mrs", or "Miss" prefixes) for living persons before full names on first reference, but it continues to use them before surnames on subsequent references. The more formal style is now confined to the "Court and Social" page, though "Ms" is now acceptable in that section, as well as before surnames in news sections.
In November 2003, News International began producing the newspaper in both broadsheet and tabloid sizes. On 13 September 2004, the weekday broadsheet was withdrawn from sale in Northern Ireland. Since 1 November 2004, the paper has been printed solely in tabloid format.
On 6 June 2005, The Times redesigned its Letters page, dropping the practice of printing correspondents' full postal addresses. Published letters were long regarded as one of the paper's key constituents. Author/solicitor David Green of Castle Morris Pembrokeshire has had more letters published on the main letters page than any other known contributor – 158 by 31 January 2008. According to its leading article "From Our Own Correspondents", the reason for removal of full postal addresses was to fit more letters onto the page.
In a 2007 meeting with the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, which was investigating media ownership and the news, Murdoch stated that the law and the independent board prevented him from exercising editorial control.
In May 2008 printing of The Times switched from Wapping to new plants at Waltham Cross in Hertfordshire, and Merseyside and Glasgow, enabling the paper to be produced with full colour on every page for the first time.
On 26 July 2012, to coincide with the official start of the London 2012 Olympics and the issuing of a series of souvenir front covers, The Times added the suffix "of London" to its masthead.
In March 2016, the paper dropped its rolling digital coverage for a series of 'editions' of the paper at 9am, midday and 5pm on weekday. The change also saw a redesign for the paper's app for smartphones and tablets.
In April 2019, Culture secretary Jeremy Wright said he was minded to allow a request by News UK to relax the legal undertakings given in 1981 to maintain separate journalism resources for The Times and The Sunday Times.