It's 320 Years Since Britain's First Newspaper Was Founded by A Female Editor

It's 320 Years Since Britain's First Newspaper Was Founded by A Female Editor
A plaque to the Daily Courant on Fleet Street. Image Matt Brown

Did you know that Britain's first daily newspaper was founded by a woman?

Elizabeth Mallet established The Daily Courant in 1702. It was revolutionary. Newspapers had existed before, but no one in Britain had ever tried producing one every day.

Before this, Mallet was already an accomplished entrepreneur, operating a book-making business and running two printing presses with her husband and later her son. The Daily Courant arrived in 1702, published from her home "by Fleet Ditch", where today Fleet Street becomes Ludgate Hill.

The Daily Courant contained only one page of news (initially with a focus on international affairs), later adding a reverse page of advertisements. The first edition trumpeted its slim size as a virtue, explaining that it would "spare the public at least half the impertinences which the ordinary papers contain". This was a rational newspaper that dealt in facts, not opinions. It remained in publication for about 30 years.

The first edition of the Daily Courant, 11 March 1702. Image Public Domain

The publishing world of the early 18th century was heavily dominated by men. Elizabeth published articles under the alias E. Mallet, hiding her gender from the public on the outside but managing an entire business behind closed doors. Sadly, she received little recognition in her lifetime for all the hard work and dedication.

Mallet remained in control of the Courant for just 40 days before selling it on to another publisher. Nevertheless, her idea proved highly influential. The daily digest of current events would inspire the development of other news publications, and kickstart London's famous newspaper industry, which would cluster on Fleet Street close to where the Courant had its birth.

A second plaque to the Courant, on Ludgate Hill

Little is known about Mallet's wider life, and no portrait exists. The Daily Courant is remembered in a pair of plaques in the Fleet Street area. Tellingly, neither of these mentions Mallet by name.

Isn't it time this remarkable woman got her own plaque?

Last Updated 06 April 2022

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