Business in Fleet Street thrives on innovation

While the newspaper industry left Fleet Street a generation ago, the area still crackles with vitality, determination, and smart ideas. Two new filters on the Cradle of English website bely any notion that the centuries-old tradition of business innovation here vanished with those journalists. The first, most recently added, reflects one of the many “oldest professions” that thrived in London a millennium ago – and certainly the largest of those still powering forward into the 21st century.

The legal community of solicitors and barristers evolved 800 years ago from the settling of English common law in the secular courts outside the jurisdiction of the civil courts practising Roman law in the City, where the Church prevailed. The Inns of Court established then didn’t just lay foundations of law for England and much of the modern world. They also created the market for a publishing industry that transformed the English language from a backwater dialect into today’s lingua franca of business, technology, science and, just about everywhere else but Paris, in global politics.

The momentum established over all those years made Fleet Street a natural place in which to establish a new “Justice Quarter” – a modern development designed to make London a global centre for the investigation and prosecution of fraud and economic crimes. This appropriately world-beating ambition would have made no sense without that longstanding momentum and a legal community that continues to sustain it.

The enduring size of that community is such that it cannot be captured on a single map: our newly completed legal filter on the Cradle of English homepage displays some thirty leading solicitors firms and barristers chambers: all world-class and all in the Fleet Street area.

The other recently posted filter, World of Business, tells a different story in addressing the question: why do certain human activities blossom in some places but not others? If the Law flourished in Fleet Street for reasons of geography, history, and the resulting evolution of commerce, the locating of so many of today’s world-leading brands’ headquarters requires a more nuanced answer.

By any reckoning, Fleet Street possesses a disproportionate number of such HQs on its patch: Amazon, BT Group, Deloitte, Gartner, Global Data, Goldman Sachs, Hachette, Lego Group, Saatchi & Saatchi, Unilever, Sainsbury’s . . . and sixteen others. Can the answer be as simple as a long history of great deals on long property leases?

Of course not. It’s the same answer as applies to the centuries of lawyers, printers, publishers, authors, illustrators, scientists, and on and on it goes. There is on this ground a long and storied history of brilliant, skilled, and committed men and women doing interesting things over time: centuries of sustained innovation in the service of regeneration and growth, recovering from war, plague and fire, sparking the Enlightenment and swelling the high confidence of the Victorian Age, and now moving into a new millennium where their genius and energies are needed more than ever.