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Archive of The Economist Newspaper Limited


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The archive contains an incomplete set of minutes of the Board of Directors of The Economist Newspaper Limited and related papers from its incorporation in 1929, and correspondence and papers of Managing Directors, later Chief Executive Officers, Editors, and staff of editorial departments or sections. Other records include correspondence and papers of the Economist Intelligence Unit and the Economists' Bookshop, materials relating to property, finance, staff, production, and promotion and marketing, and records relating to the celebration of the 1943 centenary, the 150th anniversary in 1993, and research for The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843–1993 (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1993) by Ruth Dudley Edwards.

The bulk of the archive dates from the second half of the 20th century. The offices of The Economist were bombed in May 1941 and many records were lost.


  • Creation: [1843]-2017


62.0 Linear metres (372 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Conditions Governing Access

Some material is closed.

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, where available, e.g. MS. Economist 1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Economist 1-363

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12445


Archive of The Economist Newspaper Limited

Biographical / Historical

Although published weekly in a magazine format, The Economist is called a newspaper because it covers news as well as opinion and works to a newspaper deadline. It has no bylines but is written anonymously in order to present a corporate voice.

The newspaper was founded in 1843 by James Wilson (1805-1860), a businessman and Liberal politician, to campaign for free trade. It was solely owned by Wilson for the first 17 years and he was Editor until 1849. The newspaper was originally called The Economist: The Political, Commercial, Agricultural, and Free-Trade Journal and its first issue was published on 2 September 1843. It was renamed The Economist, Weekly Commercial Times, Bankers Gazette, and Railway Monitor: a Political, Literary, and General Newspaper after Wilson added a 'Railway Monitor' in 1845. The basis of the paper was a systematic weekly survey of economic data and it quickly became invaluable as a source of trade and financial statistics. Wilson wrote much of the paper himself, assisted by Richard Holt Hutton (1826-1897) and Walter Bagehot (1826-1877). Bagehot married one of Wilson's daughters and became Editor himself in 1861, widening the range of the paper into politics.

When Wilson died in 1860 ownership passed to his widow and their six daughters, the last survivor of whom, with the rest of his descendants, sold it in 1928. The buyers were a group of independent shareholders, headed by the Editor, Walter Layton, later 1st Baron Layton (1844-1966), and Financial Newspapers Limited. Their agreement limited each side to 50% to ensure the newspaper’s complete independence and safeguard the Editor from proprietorial interference. Today the individual shareholders include current and former staff and members of the Rothschild, Schroder and Cadbury families. A board of independent trustees was created with rights of veto over transfers of voting shares. There has to be full agreement between the trustees and the Board of Directors on the appointment or removal of the Editor. The Editor is thus free from control by financial interests. In 1929 there were seven members on the board. This later increased to nine and, in 1978, to 13 to include executives. By 1938, circulation had reached 10,000, half of which was accounted for by international sales.

In 1946, The Economist Intelligence Unit was founded to serve the newspaper and provide business intelligence to outside companies. In the same year, The Economists' Bookshop was created in partnership with the London School of Economics. It was sold in 1992.

With the gradual acquisition of other publications and interests in the second half of the 20th century, the company began to trade as The Economist Group. It has evolved into a global media company with its headquarters in London. Among its many publications are The World In... series, offering forecasts for the year ahead, from 1987, and Intelligent Life, a quarterly lifestyle publication, which first appeared in 2007. The Economist's website was launched in December 2000. 'EVision', producing 30 minute programmes with a global agenda, began in January 2002.

For further information see R.D. Edwards, The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist 1843–1993 (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1993).


The arrangement reflects the structure of the company as far as possible and the original filing system where that is apparent. Where records of departments are fragmentary, or where there is no evidence of ownership of records, they have been grouped in series as part of the relevant organizational function or area, e.g. property, finance, staff.

Original file titles, where they exist, are given in inverted commas preceding descriptions.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated to the Bodleian Library in 2017 by The Economist Newspaper Limited

Catalogue of the archive of The Economist Newspaper Limited
Finding aid prepared by Chrissie Webb
Language of description
Script of description
Catalogued with the generous support of The Economist Newspaper Limited
Finding aid note
The Bodleian Library acknowledges the contribution of Jeannette Strickland, Archives and Records Consultant, employed by The Economist Newspaper Limited to identify and consolidate archive materials at their offices prior to the donation of the archive to the Bodleian Library.

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom