Private Eye Archive: Back Issue Newspapers

The Reason You Should Care About Archived Newspapers

Since the Oxford Gazette printed its first issue in 1665, newspapers have been keeping citizens of the British Isles up to date on happenings both abroad and closer to home.  Though much of the modern world now receives its news via television or the internet, newspapers still affect our viewpoints, our culture, and our historical perspective. Even satirical papers, which can help to relieve stress, have their role to play. If you want a taste of written comedy, or to better understand humor from decades ago, you’d be well-advised to browse the archives of the Private Eye.

The History of the Private Eye

The paper began life in the mid-1950s as a Shrewsbury School paper as  The Salopian. Two of The Salopian’s editors, Richard Ingrams and Paul Foot, reunited some time later  at Oxford University. They were soon joined by other students on their mission to recapture the papers of their use. After learning to use the newly-minted photo-litho offset process, the group published the first issue of the Private Eye in 1961. At that time, the paper served as nothing more than a vehicle for inside jokes and a trendier alternative to Punch. Regardless of its lack of maturity, the paper quickly achieved success.

Two local satirical nightclub owners, Nicholas Luard and Peter Cook, provided the funding the Private Eye needed to become a fully-fledged publication. The additional support gave Private Eye the money it needed to explore and satirize matters like, such tax havens, phone hacking, and human rights abuses. Of course, in the field of satire, offenses are bound to happen eventually. The paper has been lambasted, and even banned, for its handling of sensitive matters. The most notable of these PR failures came shortly after the death of Princess Diana.

 This former school paper now  has a bi-weekly circulation of just over 230,000 copies.

Interesting Facts About the Private Eye

  • Types of satirical articles featured in the private eye include “Polly Filler”, “Poetry Corner”, Official Apology”, and “Obvious Headline”.
  • The paper’s negative coverage of gay rights activism coined a derogatory term for homosexual men.
  • The knight featured in the Western Mail’s masthead is named Gnitty.

Private Eye Archives

To find back issues of The Private Eye or to check availability of the newspaper, follow these steps:

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