It was originally launched as the New Observer in 1821, but rapidly underwent two name changes to become first the Independent Observer before settling on its present name in 1822.
It was the first of the Sundays to publish a colour supplement, as long ago as the early 1960s. It appears in broadsheet format and will continue to do so, according to its editorial staff, even though The Times shifted to tabloid shortly after making a similar commitment.
Perhaps surprisingly, it wasn’t until 1966 that The Sunday Times and The Times came into common ownership. Both titles became part of Rupert Murdoch’s News International in 1981; but the takeover was not referred to the Monopolies & Mergers Commission, perhaps because the Thatcher government feared that the newspapers might close altogether (as outgoing owner Lord Thomson had threatened) if the change of ownership was subjected to a lengthy legal process. The grounds given for non-referral were that the newspapers were making a loss. However, this was certainly not the case with The Sunday Times, which was still profitable.
For several years there was suspicion that Murdoch had lobbied Thatcher directly to avoid an MMC referral, although The Times‘s own official history said that no meeting took place between the two at that point; the Thatcher Foundation released documents in March 2012 that showed they did indeed meet on 4 January 1981 at Chequers and that Murdoch’s bid for both newspapers was discussed, although the question of the MMC referral was not raised.
It used to share a website with The Times, but gained its own web presence in June 2010 when both sites started charging for online content (£2 per week as of October 2012 for the basic web package).
As well as the main UK edition, there are also Irish, overseas and (since Autumn 2011) Middle East/Asia editions. Apps are also available for iPad and smartphones.