The Guardian Archive: Back Issue Newspapers

The Guardian Archive: Back Issue Newspapers

Newspapers can offer insight into what the community or even the world was like on any given day. There may be drastic changes from only a few years ago, or there may be surprising similarities to events of 100 years ago. Although general information and major events are likely covered by any newspaper, at times it may be important to understand what may affect a particular paper’s style, such as political leanings or economic interests.

History of The Guardian

The Guardian, named the Manchester Guardian until 1959, was first published in 1821 as a replacement for the Manchester Observer, which had been shut down by the police. The Guardian was founded by John Edward Taylor and other businessmen who agreed with some of the radical nonconformist politics of the time.

In UK politics, being a nonconformist referred to resistance to the Church of England’s control of business and civil matters. Although in US politics “liberal” is typically referring to the Democratic party and social liberalism, in UK politics the Liberal Party is more closely associated with aristocracy, and the Radicals were part of what became the Liberal Party. This is a very important distinction for readers in the US who may see The Guardian referred to as a Liberal paper.

Because of its Radical leanings, The Guardian was unpopular with many working class citizens. The paper claimed that striking workers were being influenced by outside agitators and therefore should not be taken seriously. The Guardian even criticized American President Abraham Lincoln after his assassination, claiming his policies violated the constitutional rights of Americans.

In 1907 C.P. Scott, The Guardian’s editor since 1872, bought the paper from Taylor’s son’s estate. Although the paper had been more moderate than the Manchester Observer under Taylor’s ownership, it became decidedly more radical with Scott at the helm. Ownership of the paper eventually passed to Scott’s son, John Russell Scott, and in 1936 became the property of the Scott Trust. J.R. Scott retired as chairman of the trust in 1984.

The Guardian has taken controversial stands on a variety of global matters over the years, but has also broken major stories. In the mid-1990s The Guardian accused cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken of corruption. Aitken sued the paper, but The Guardian provided proof that Aitken had committed perjury. This case contributed to the failure of the Conservative party in 1997. Additionally, in 2013 it was The Guardian that first revealed the US government’s collecting of phone records, known as the PRISM program, which was provided to both The Guardian and the Washington Post by Edward Snowden. Although the US defended its actions, many other nations believed PRISM violated their countries’ privacy laws. The US military admitted to subsequently partially blocking access by military personnel to The Guardian’s website, and blocking all access for military personnel stationed in the Middle East.

The Guardian is available in both print and digital formats. Like most newspapers, circulation of print copies is in decline. Viewing articles on The Guardian’s website is free, and the site offers a wide variety of membership and subscription plans for additional content. More focus is currently on the digital editions, and theguardian.com has users worldwide.

Interesting Facts About The Guardian


  • Printed in Berliner format, the first UK national paper to come in this size. Most other UK papers are in tabloid format.

  • Changing to Berliner presses enabled The Guardian to be the first UK paper to print every page in full color.

  • From its founding, The Guardian has been financially structured to maintain editorial independence. Any profits made by the paper were diverted back as investments in the paper rather than being paid to stockholders. Although popular, the paper has operated with financial losses for many years.


The Guardian’s Archives

Digital copies of The Guardian published from 1821-2003 can be viewed online.
If you're looking for Guardian back issues copies you can simply visit this page, choose your preferred date and then select the package the best suits your needs.

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