This week in history: The Times newspaper first published in London

01 January 2015

By Pan Macmillan

1 January 1785:The Times newspaper first published in London

On 1 January 1785, a new daily newspaper was launched in London. Entitled The Daily Universal Register, it was the brainchild of John Walter, a former underwriter, and entered an already crowded field. In its first editorial, Walter admitted that: ‘To bring out a New Paper at the present day, when so many others are already established and confirmed in the public opinion, is certainly arduous undertaking.’

Priced at two-pence-halfpenny, Walter’s paper ran to a mere four pages, half of which were given over entirely to adverts. Claiming that it would be ‘of no party’ and steer ‘clear off extremes’ , he stated that his paper was intended to be ‘the UNIVERSAL REGISTER’ and would ‘record the principal occurrences of the times, and to abridge the account of debates during the sitting of parliament.’

Renamed The Times exactly three years later and soon affectionately nicknamed the ‘Thunderer’, it became Britain’s leading newspaper in the Victorian era, earning acclaim for its campaigns for Parliamentary reform and for reports from conflicts such as the Crimean War.