Michael Joseph founded his publishing house as a subsidiary of Victor Gollancz in 1935, a time when many other publishing houses were folding or suffering serious financial difficulties. Joseph and Gollancz soon began to clash on various topics — from publishing material to financial targets. After Gollancz tried to censor Sir Philip Gibbs's Across the Frontiers for political reasons, Joseph bought out him in 1938. Joseph published the first edition of the book later that year as well as a revised edition the following May. Other publications include D. F. Karaka’s autobiographical book about his time in England, I Go West (1938) and various works by Bertrand Russell, H. E. Bates, C. S. Forester, Monica Dickens, and Richard Llewellyn.
In 1985, Penguin Books bought out Michael Joseph Ltd. Now an imprint on its list, the firm publishes popular fiction and non-fiction. From crime and thrillers to fantasy and historical novels, fiction authors include Marian Keyes, Jane Green, Catherine Alliott, Clive Cussler, Sue Townsend, Dick Francis, Nicci French, Elizabeth Noble, Lesley Pearse, and Jane Fallon. With the same breath of diversity, the imprint’s non-fiction list includes memoirs by Stephen Fry, Michael McIntyre, and Ant and Dec along with regular bestsellers from Jeremy Clarkson and Jamie Oliver.
Since at least the mid-1930s, first editions from Michael Joseph Ltd. have either stated “First Published (year)” on the copyright page or have no additional printings listed. As of 1988, first editions include the aforementioned statement on the copyright page along with a sequence of numbers with “1” present.