The Times newspaper is published in London and is one of Britain’s oldest and most impactful newspapers. It remains to be one of the largest papers and is the 6th most-circulated daily newspaper in the UK. To read original Times newspapers from the date of your choice, take a look at The Times archive with papers from any day in history.

History of the Times

The Times was originally founded as The Daily Universal Register on 1st January 1785 by John Walter. It began as a 2 ½ penny broadsheet newspaper with the main aim of publicising a system of typography that interested Walter. In his opening editorial, Walter declared that a newspaper:

 “ought to be the register of the times and faithful recorder of every species of intelligence; it ought not to be engrossed by any particular object; but like a well-covered table, it should contain something suited to every palate: observations on the dispositions of our own and of foreign courts should be provided for the political reader; debates should be reported for the amusement or information of those who may be particularly fond of them; and a due attention should be paid to the interests of trade, which are so greatly promoted by advertisements.”

Becoming The Times

On 1st January 1788, John Walter changed the name of the newspaper to The Times, which is a newspaper title recognised worldwide today as a newspaper of record. After the change, the newspaper began publishing commercial news, as well as some scandals. 

In 1803, the founder’s son, John Walter II, took over the newspaper and expanded it from 4 pages to 12 large pages. The reputation of the Times as Britain’s leading national news publication and historical record had been firmly established when John Walter III took over the newspaper in 1848. Its first liberal editor, Thomas Barnes, was in charge when the newspaper became popularly known as the “Thunderer” and emerged as a strong independent newspaper. It had incredible standards of reporting and always strove for accuracy. 

The Times Original Newspapers

The Times front page, September 9, 1949

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Change in Ownership

The Times remained in the Walter family for four generations up to 1908, when it was bought by Lord Northcliffe of the Daily Mail. On the death of Lord Northcliffe in 1922, the newspaper was purchased by John Jacob Astor, who was a son of William Waldorf Astor, 1st Viscount Astor of The Observer newspaper (not to be confused with John Jacob Astor IV who died on The Titanic in 1912). 

The Times began to deteriorate after overspending and an inadvertent publication of a forgery against Charles Stewart Parnell, an Irish nationalist politician. Changes were made to the newspaper during the 1950s when Sir William Haley became the editor, making the Times more interesting and dynamic. 

The Astor family sold The Times to the Canadian media entrepreneur Roy Thomson (1st Baron Thomson of Fleet) in 1966 and Rupert Murdoch’s News International purchased The Times (as part of Times Newspaper Limited) from Roy Thomson in 1981. The Times Library Edition was introduced on 2nd July 1917 and became a special edition printed on quality paper for libraries and royal palaces. It was renamed the Times Royal Edition in 1922 and continued to be printed until 31st December 1969. Times back issues from this year are of particular interest to the public.

Brief Closure and Strike

For a brief period, The Times newspaper was closed down due to an industrial dispute from 1st December 1978 until 12th November 1979 and thus no Times newspapers were printed during this period. The first issue after the strike was 13th November 1979. This was a major event in the history of the Times newspaper. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation obtained the publication through purchasing Times Newspapers. 

The Times newspaper stopped printing during this time due to a dispute between unions and management over the introduction of new technology and manning levels. Talks broke down and the Thomson Organisation who owned the newspaper at the time suspended printing in November 1978. The other newspapers in the Times group, including its Sunday sister paper, were also suspended during this time

The strike was significant since it was the first break in the Times’ production since it began. Allegedly, the dispute had cost the Thomson Organisation over £30 million. When the newspaper was reintroduced, an extra 200,000 copies were printed compared to usual. There was also a long tail of welcome back messages from advertisers as well as announcements of births and deaths that dated the past year the Times was not publishing.

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The Sunday Times

The Times also has a sister paper, named The Sunday Times, which is the largest selling British national newspaper in the “quality press” market category. It was founded independently to the Times but came under the same ownership in 1966, and sells over twice as many copies as the Times. Its circulation exceeds the circulation of its main rivals combined, the Sunday Telegraph and the Observer, and has always maintained the large broadsheet format. You can explore our Sunday Times archive to find original issues of the newspaper from the date of your choice.

Sunday Times Scottish

The Sunday Times front page

Times Magazine and Supplements

The Times magazine (which should not be confused with Time magazine) was first printed as the Saturday colour magazine supplement of the newspaper on 13th March 1993. The Times newspaper was a broadsheet newspaper until November 2003, when it started to produce a compact (tabloid) edition in addition to the broadsheet papers. Since 1st November 2004, the newspaper has been printed in tabloid format only. 

Currently, the main regular supplement in The Times (Monday-Friday) is the “times2” features section which includes TV/Radio listings and reviews. There is also “The Game” sports section which appears on Mondays only and the “Bricks & Mortar” property supplement on Fridays. The Saturday edition of the newspaper was re-launched on 24th January 2009 with the “Money” section incorporated into the main newspaper whilst the sports coverage was given its own separate section. Thus, the Saturday edition currently includes “The Times Magazine”, the “Playlist” magazine (TV/Radio listings and film/theatre & music reviews) plus the “Saturday Review” (arts & books), “Weekend” (body & soul, food & drink and travel) and “Sport” newspaper supplements.

The Times

The Times front page, March 20, 2014

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Political Stance of the Times

The newspaper is traditionally a moderately centre-right newspaper but supported the Labour Party under Tony Blair at the general elections in 2001 and 2005. Nevertheless, the Times changed allegiance on 1st May 2010 by officially endorsing the Conservative Party for the first time in 18 years. 

The Times Circulation Figures

Date Circulation
1852 42,384
1910 45,000
1921 113,000
1930 187,000
1939 204,000
1947 268,000
1956 220,716
1966 282,000
1976 310,000
1980 297,000
1992 386,258
2000 726,349
2005 686,327
2010 508,250
2015 396,621
2019 417,298

The figures above show the average circulation for the Times for each year. As we can see from the data, the circulation figures have varied over the years, with a huge increase between 1992 and 1997. 

The newspaper reached peak circulation in 1997, then had steadily declined since. With the rise of the Internet, it’s understandable that other methods of reading the Times may have led to a decline in print circulation.

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