History of British newspapers

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During the 17th century, there were many kinds of publications, that told both news and rumours. Among these were pamphlets, posters, ballads etc. Even when the news periodicals emerged, many of these co-existed with them. A news periodical differs from these mainly because of its periodicity. The definition for 17th century newsbooks and newspapers is that they are published at least once a week. Johann Carolus' Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien, published in Strassburg in 1605, is usually regarded as the first news periodical.[1]

In the beginning of the 17th century the right to print was strictly controlled in England. This was probably the reason why the first newspaper in English language was printed in Amsterdam by Joris Veseler around 1620. This followed the style established by Veseler's earlier Dutch paper Courante uyt Italien, Duytslandt, &c. However, when the English started printing their own papers in London, they reverted to the pamphlet format used by contemporary books. The era of these newsbooks lasted until the publication of the Oxford Gazette in 1665.

The control over printing relaxed to some extent after the ending of the Star Chamber in 1641. The Civil War escalated the demand for news. News-pamphlets or -books reported the war, often supporting one side or the other. Following the Restoration there arose a number of publications, including the London Gazette (first published on 16 November 1665 as the Oxford Gazette),[2] the first official journal of record and the newspaper of the Crown. Publication was controlled under the Licensing Act of 1662, but the Act's lapses from 1679–1685 and from 1695 onwards encouraged a number of new titles.


Eighteenth century

There were twelve London newspapers and 24 provincial papers by the 1720s (the Daily Courant was the first London newspaper). The Public Advertiser was started by Henry Woodfall in the eighteenth century.

Nineteenth century

By the early 19th century there were 52 London papers and over 100 other titles. As stamp, paper and other duties were progressively reduced from the 1830s onwards (all duties on newspapers were gone by 1855) there was a massive growth in overall circulation as major events and improved communications developed the public's need for information. The Daily Universal Register began life in 1785 and was later to become known as The Times from 1788. This was the most significant newspaper of the first half of the 19th century, but from around 1860 there were a number of more strongly competitive titles, each differentiated by its political biases and interests.

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