The New Statesman is the leading progressive political and cultural magazine in the United Kingdom. Founded as a weekly review of politics and literature on 12 April 1913, the New Statesman has notably recognised and published new writers and critics, as well as encouraged notable careers. Today, it is a vibrant print-digital hybrid, and one of the most respected and influential titles in the United Kingdom.
The New Statesman is celebrated for its progressive and liberal politics, as well as the intelligence, range and quality of its writing and analysis. Its contributors have included J M Keynes, Bertrand Russell, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Christopher Hitchens, Martin Amis, J B Priestley, Clive James, Rowan Williams, John Berger, Claire Tomalin, Andrew Marr and John Gray. Today, it is read across various platforms by opinion-formers and decision-makers from all sectors — government, academia, the foreign policy establishment and think tanks, business, the media and the arts. The mission of its award-wining writers and editors is to analyse and explain the defining political, economic, geopolitical and cultural events and ideas shaping and changing the world today.
Timeline of key events in the New Statesman’s history
1913: The New Statesman is founded by the Fabian intellectuals Sidney and Beatrice Webb (who also co-founded the London School of Economics), with support from the writers George Bernard Shaw and H G Wells. The first editor is Clifford Sharp, who holds the position until 1931.
1914-31: The magazine grows in influence and circulation and establishes itself as a significant political and journalistic voice in the culture.
1931: Kingsley Martin, a young former Guardian leader writer, is appointed as editor, and continues in the role until 1960. He makes the New Statesman essential reading across the political spectrum and today is justly celebrated as one of the great journalists of his time.
1931: The New Statesman merges with the Nation, the mouthpiece of Bloomsbury liberalism. The great economist J M Keynes becomes chairman. On 28 February 1931, the first edition of New Statesman and Nation (incorporating the Athenaeum) is published.
1934-37: The Weekend Review, a rival title whose sales are declining, is acquired and subsumed into the New Statesman and Nation. The social research organisation Mass Observation is founded as a consequence of an article in the New Statesman. H G Wells publishes his famous interview with Stalin.
1939-45: During the war years the circulation of the New Statesman increases from 24,000 to 70,000, despite paper rationing.
1950s: The New Statesman continues to grow in influence and prestige. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament is founded as a result of an article by J B Priestley published in the magazine.
1957-58: The Nation suffix is dropped. Nuclear diplomacy is played out in the pages of the New Statesman as the Soviet president Nikita Khrushchev and the US secretary of state John Foster Dulles publish open letters in the magazine at the height of the Cold War.
1961-65: The former Labour MP John Freeman serves as editor, succeeding Kingsley Martin. Freeman is later appointed Britain’s High Commissioner to India and then Ambassador to the United States.
1965-70: Paul Johnson becomes the editor and takes the New Statesman to its highest weekly circulation at a vibrant time for the magazine.
1972-78: Anthony Howard, a former New Statesman political editor, becomes the editor and champions an outstanding generation of political and literary writers who join the staff. These include Martin Amis, Christopher Hitchens, Julian Barnes and James Fenton.
1988: The 1980s, a period of expansion for the press, are a difficult decade for the New Statesman and weekly magazines in general. Although it loses circulation, the New Statesman survives to celebrate its 75th anniversary. It also merges with New Society, a weekly title covering public affairs and the social sciences, to form the New Statesman and Society. Charter 88, a pressure group that advocates constitutional and electoral reform, is launched through the New Statesman.
1991: Another influential magazine, Marxism Today, is acquired and subsumed.
1996: The Labour MP and businessman Geoffrey Robinson saves the New Statesman from near-bankruptcy and appoints Ian Hargreaves as editor. Hargreaves revives the title and documents the emergence of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the New Labour project. He steps down in 1998 and is succeeded by Peter Wilby, who is editor for the next seven years and takes the magazine to the left.
November 1998: Newstatesman.com goes live for the first time, establishing the paper’s online presence and heralding a new era for the magazine.
2008-2009: The businessman and philanthropist Mike Danson buys the New Statesman. Jason Cowley is appointed editor in October 2008. He begins a transformation of the magazine.
2009-2013: Evolving into a print-digital hybrid, the New Statesman becomes more politically sceptical and unpredictable and begins to publish long reads: essays, narrative reports and profiles. A new generation of political writers is discovered and nurtured, including deputy editor Helen Lewis. Cowley and his team win numerous awards; in January 2013 the awards committee of the European Press Prize says: “Jason Cowley has succeeded in revitalising the New Statesman and re-establishing its position as an influential political and cultural weekly. He has given the New Statesman an edge and a relevance to current affairs it hasn’t had for years.”
2013: The New Statesman celebrates its centenary by publishing a 180-page special edition, the largest single issue in its history. It also publishes two special editions (250 and 150 pages) showcasing 100 years of the best and boldest journalism from its archives.
2014: The micro-websites CityMetric, a digital magazine exploring “urbanism for the social media age”, and May2015.com, a polling data hub, are launched as part of a digital expansion.
2016: The New Statesman’s circulation reaches a 35-year high and its website traffic reaches new record highs as the publication announces plans for further digital expansion. Once again, it has become required reading across the political spectrum while being celebrated for the quality, independence and authority of its journalism and ideas.
List of editors
- Clifford Sharp 1913-31*
- J C Squire 1917-20
- Charles Mostyn Lloyd 1928-31
- Kingsley Martin 1931-60
- John Freeman 1961-65
- Paul Johnson 1965-70
- Richard Crossman 1970-72
- Anthony Howard 1972-78
- Bruce Page 1978-82
- Hugh Stephenson 1982-86
- John Lloyd 1986-87
- Stuart Weir 1987-91
- Steve Platt 1991-96
- Ian Hargreaves 1996-98
- Peter Wilby 1998-2005
- John Kampfner 2005-2008
- Sue Matthias 2008**
- Jason Cowley 2008 to date
* Sharp was technically editor from 1913-31, but because of his alcoholism Mostyn Lloyd covered for him from 1928-31. J C Squire, the NS literary editor, was acting editor while Sharp was absent on wartime duties (1917-20).
**Acting (February to September)
Source: About the New Statesman