The London Gazette is one of the official journals of record of the British government, and the most important among such official journals in the United Kingdom, in which certain statutory notices are required to be published. The London Gazette claims to be the oldest surviving English newspaper and the oldest continuously published newspaper in the UK, having been first published on 7 November 1665 as The Oxford Gazette.[a] This claim is also made by the Stamford Mercury and Berrow's Worcester Journal, because The Gazette is not a conventional newspaper offering general news coverage. It does not have a large circulation.
Other official newspapers of the UK government are The Edinburgh and The Belfast Gazettes, which, apart from reproducing certain materials of nationwide interest published in The London Gazette, also contain publications specific to Scotland and Northern Ireland, respectively.
In turn, The London Gazette carries not only notices of UK-wide interest, but also those relating specifically to entities or people in England and Wales. However, certain notices that are only of specific interest to Scotland or Northern Ireland are also required to be published in The London Gazette.
The London Gazette is published each weekday, except for bank holidays. Notices for the following, among others, are published:
The official Gazettes are published by The Stationery Office. The content, apart from insolvency notices, is available in a number of machine-readable formats, including XML (delivery by email/FTP) and XML/RDFa via Atom feed.
The London Gazette was first published as The Oxford Gazette on 7 November 1665. Charles II and the Royal Court had moved to Oxford to escape the Great Plague of London, and courtiers were unwilling to touch, let alone hold to read, London newspapers for fear of contagion. The Gazette was "Published by Authority" by Henry Muddiman, and its first publication is noted by Samuel Pepys in his diary. The King returned to London as the plague dissipated, and the Gazette moved too, with the first issue of The London Gazette (labelled No. 24) being published on 5 February 1666. The Gazette was not a newspaper in the modern sense: it was sent by post to subscribers, not printed for sale to the general public.
Her Majesty's Stationery Office took over the publication of the Gazette in 1889. Publication of the Gazette was transferred to the private sector, under government supervision, in the 1990s, when HMSO was sold and renamed The Stationery Office.
In time of war, dispatches from the various conflicts are published in The London Gazette. People referred to are said to have been mentioned in dispatches. When members of the armed forces are promoted, and these promotions are published here, the person is said to have been "gazetted".
Being "gazetted" (or "in the gazette") sometimes also meant having official notice of one's bankruptcy published, as in the classic ten-line poem comparing the stolid tenant farmer of 1722 to the lavishly spending faux-genteel farmers of 1822:
The phrase "gazetted fortune hunter" is also probably derived from this. Notices of engagement and marriage were also formerly published in the Gazette.
Gazettes, modelled on The London Gazette, were issued for most British colonial possessions.