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Background

Long before it became a collective descriptor for the world of English journalism, Fleet Street was at the centre of the country’s publishing and printing industries. Within a space smaller than a square mile, strategically located between the seat of political power in Westminster and the tightly regulated commercial environment of the City of London, a hotbed of entrepreneurial energy was accelerating the development of our culture.

Reaching back in time, back into the 15th century, printing presses turned out early versions of the English Bible and the first great dictionaries of the language and, in the courts of Chancery and the Temple, some of the finest minds in England were defining the legal frameworks that would shape the modern world.

Famous not only for the foundry that it represented in the evolution of English literature, nor simply for the foundations it lay for today’s global worlds of law, medicine, science, and technology, Fleet Street has for centuries now become a magnet for the titans of the wider culture who were attracted to live and work in and around the area, mingling and supping in its coffee houses and taverns. The roll call is illustrious: Shakespeare, Dickens, Dr Johnson, Goldsmith, Milton, Burke, Pepys, Twain . . . and so many more.

You too can walk the old alleys and byways of Fleet Street, and delight in the ancient atmosphere of its surviving taverns. Many of the ancient watering holes have survived into the 21st century: come sit in the places that Dr Johnson and Charles Dickens made their own.

And if you cannot journey to London itself, linger on this website and listen to the Mitre Nights podcasts. Get a sense of the living language, the history and vitality drawn from the wealth of life and teeming innovation that have given Fleet Street its unique character going back over six centuries.

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