During the 17th Century, it was believed that national efficiency depended on the intelligence received by the Crown and that the reckless publishing of news might endanger it. An embargo on the printing of news other than reports of events abroad, natural disasters, royal declarations and sensational crime continued until 1640. This had the effect of delaying the development of the press in the UK. Censorship was introduced in 1643, followed by licensing of news publications.
The London Gazette came about because of two momentous events: the Great Plague and the decision of King Charles II to remove his court - effectively the government of the time - to Oxford. The London Gazette started life as the Oxford Gazette and after a few months changed to its current title.
At the outset, it met the need for authoritative news and in this served both the Crown and the Executive. It had incomparable sources of information from overseas; in peace time, its “foreign correspondents” were the British embassies abroad; in time of war the British generals themselves. The first news of Wellington’s victory at Waterloo was carried in the Gazette, and when the newly founded Times stopped its presses to carry the news of this famous battle, it was the despatch which had been published as a Gazette Extraordinary which was reprinted in full.
In recent times The London Gazette has evolved to reflect the trends and needs of the legal process and the readership. Today it is a newspaper only in a very specialized sense, but its role in publishing official information is still a significant one.
Though the imposing legend “Published by Authority” which it has always borne may be no more than a relic of the ancient Licensing Acts, those words have come through the processes of time to acquire a greater significance as a uniquely authoritative place of record, in print, through electronic data feeds and online.
If you would like to know more about the London Gazette then please download this article [MS Word] which you are very welcome to tailor to your needs and re-use as you wish.