Originally founded in 1821 as the Manchester Guardian, it went national (and dropped the “Manchester”) in 1959. The editor moved to London in 1964, initially to Fleet Street and then to offices in Farringdon in 1976; it’s been at its present address in King’s Cross since 2008.
The Guardian has been owned by the same company since 1907, although the company’s undergone a series of name changes; it was initially the Manchester Guardian Ltd, then became the Manchester Guardian and Evening News Ltd following the purchase of the Manchester Evening News in 1924 (and then the Guardian and Manchester Evening News Ltd following the 1959 name change). It’s been known as the Guardian Media Group since 1993 (technically, it’s published by GMG’s Guardian News & Media division), and has remained based in Manchester despite the move of The Guardian‘s editorial staff to London and the sale of MEN Media and its newspapers to Trinity Mirror in March 2010.
It’s traditionally been a paper of social protest: its 1821 prospectus declared that it would “zealously enforce the principles of civil and religious Liberty … it will warmly advocate the cause of Reform; it will endeavour to assist in the diffusion of just principles of Political Economy; and to support, without reference to the party from which they emanate, all serviceable measures.” It’s not departed from that stance ever since and is commonly seen as a favourite with students, teachers, social workers, hippies and bleeding-heart pinko liberals in general. It’s generally pro-European, pro-welfare state, pro-civil rights; and has been conducting a concerted campaign for the United Kingdom to become a republic for a number of years now.
It claims – with some justification – to have made a bigger shift to web-based reporting than any other paper. As of December 2009 its website attracted more traffic than any other British newspaper (though it’s since been overtaken by the Daily Mail), and it’s now available in several formats for handheld devices, including iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Android and Kindle as well as a mobile site. On the other hand, it’s also been consistently loss-making in recent years.
It was also the first of the national heavyweight dailies to switch to a “Berliner” format, in September 2005, with modern presses enabling it to print in colour on every page (although the Northern Ireland edition is still largely in black-and-white).
In its early days as a national newspaper it picked up a reputation for containing typesetting errors, which also earned it the affectionate (or contemptuous) nickname of The Grauniad from Private Eye.
It played a major part in exposing the News of the World‘s hacking of mobile phone voicemail to research stories – the so-called “Hackgate” scandal.