The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.
The Nation has bureaus in Washington, D.C., London and South Africa, with departments covering Architecture, Art, Corporations, Defense, Environment, Films, Legal Affairs, Music, Peace and Disarmament, Poetry, and the United Nations. The circulation of The Nation was rising and measured 184,296 in 2004 more than double that of The New Republic and higher than conservative paper The Weekly Standard. Circulation peaked at 187,000 in 2006 but by 2010 had dropped back to 145,000 in print, though digital subscriptions had risen to over 15,000.  Print ad pages declined by 5% from 2009 to 2010, while digital advertising rose 32.8% from 2009-10. . Advertising accounts for 10% of total revenue for the magazine, while circulation totals 60%.The Nation has lost money in all but three or four years of operation and is sustained in part by a group of more than 30,000 donors called The Nation Associates, who donate funds to the periodical above and beyond their annual subscription fees. This program accounts for 30% of the total revenue for the magazine. An annual cruise also generates $200,000 for the magazine. 
According to The Nations founding prospectus of 1865, "The Nation will not be the organ of any party, sect, or body. It will, on the contrary, make an earnest effort to bring to the discussion of political and social questions a really critical spirit, and to wage war upon the vices of violence, exaggeration and misrepresentation by which so much of the political writing of the day is marred."
Abolitionists founded The Nation in July 1865 on "Newspaper Row" at 130 Nassau Street in Manhattan. The publisher was Joseph H. Richards, and the editor was E.L. Godkin, a classical liberal critic of nationalism, imperialism, and socialism. The magazine would stay at Newspaper Row for 90 years. Wendell Phillips Garrison, son of William Lloyd Garrison, was Literary Editor from 1865 to 1906.
In 1881, newspaperman-turned-railroad-baron Henry Villard acquired The Nation and converted it into a weekly literary supplement for his daily newspaper the New York Evening Post. The offices of the magazine were moved to the Evening Posts headquarters at 210 Broadway. The New York Evening Post would later morph into a tabloid; the New York Post was a left-leaning afternoon tabloid under owner Dorothy Schiff from 1939 to 1976 and, since then, has been a conservative tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch, while The Nation became known for its left-liberal politics.
In 1900, Henry Villard's son, Oswald Garrison Villard, inherited the magazine and the Evening Post, which he sold in 1918. He remade The Nation into a current affairs publication and gave it a liberal orientation. Villard's takeover prompted the FBI to monitor the magazine for roughly 50 years. The FBI had a file on Villard from 1915. Villard sold the magazine in 1935. It became a nonprofit in 1943.
Almost every editor of The Nation from Villard's time to the 1970s was looked at for "subversive" activities and ties. When Albert Jay Nock, not long later, published a column criticizing Samuel Gompers and trade unions for being complicit in the war machine of the First World War, The Nation was briefly suspended from the U.S. mail.
During the late 1940s and again in the early 1950s, a merger was discussed by The Nation's Freda Kirchwey (later Carey McWilliams) and The New Republic's Michael Straight. The two magazines were very similar at that time—both were left of center, The Nation further left than TNR; both had circulations around 100,000, TNR had a slightly higher circulation; and both lost money—and it was thought that the two magazines could unite and make the most powerful journal of opinion.
During this period, Paul Blanshard was an Associate Editor of The Nation and served during the 1950s as its Special Correspondent in Uzbekistan. His most famous writing was a series of articles attacking the Roman Catholic Church in America as a dangerous, powerful, and undemocratic institution.
The new publication would have been called The Nation and New Republic. Kirchwey was the most hesitant, and both attempts to merge failed. The two magazines would later take very different paths, with The Nation having a higher circulation and The New Republic moving more to the right.
In June 1979, new Nation publisher Hamilton Fish and then-editor Victor Navasky moved the weekly to 72 Fifth Avenue. In June 1998, the periodical had to move to make way for condominium development. The offices of The Nation are now at 33 Irving Place in the Gramercy neighborhood.
In 1995, Victor Navasky bought the magazine and, in 1996, became publisher.
The publisher and editor is Katrina vanden Heuvel. Former editors include Victor Navasky, Norman Thomas (associate editor), Carey McWilliams, and Freda Kirchwey, the subject of a biography by the feminist historian Sara Alpern.
Notable contributors have included Albert Einstein, Albert J. Nock, Franz Boas, Patrick Buchanan, Martin Luther King Jr., Bertrand Russell, Barbara Garson, H. L. Mencken, Gore Vidal, Edward Said, Christopher Hitchens, Hunter S. Thompson, Langston Hughes, Ralph Nader, James Baldwin, Kai Bird, Clement Greenberg, Tom Hayden, Daniel Singer, I.F. Stone, Leon Trotsky, George Orwell, Henry Miller, Franklin D. Roosevelt, James K. Galbraith, John Steinbeck, Barbara Tuchman, T. S. Eliot, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Frost, Frank Lloyd Wright, Hannah Arendt, Ezra Pound, Henry James, Charles Sanders Peirce, Jean-Paul Sartre, John Maynard Keynes, Naomi Klein, Alexander Cockburn, Tariq Ali, and poet John Beecher.
The magazine runs a number of regular columns. The longest-running of these contributors had written their columns for over 20 years.
In 2008, The Nation editorial board was composed of Deepak Bhargava, Norman Birnbaum, Barbara Ehrenreich, Richard Falk, Frances FitzGerald, Eric Foner, Philip Green, Lani Guinier, Tom Hayden, Randall Kennedy, Tony Kushner, Elinor Langer, Deborah Meier, Toni Morrison, Victor Navasky, Pedro Antonio Noguera, Richard Parker, Michael Pertschuk, Elizabeth Pochoda, Marcus G. Raskin, Andrea Batista Schlesinger, David Weir, and Roger Wilkins.
The Nation Associates helps fund The Nation magazine. About 30,000 Nation readers contribute money beyond what they pay for their subscription to The Nation Associates.
The Nation Associates has four levels of contribution: Associate (any amount); Activist ($75); Mentor ($250); and Loyalist ($500). There is no maximum or minimum to contributions. Activists help fund "ActNow," a "web-based action page". Mentors help fund the Nation Classroom Program and subscriptions to The Nation Digital Archive for high school libraries. Loyalists receive a subscription and free selection of books by The Nation writers.
All contributors receive The Nation Associates' bi-annual newsletter called The Nation Associate. The Nation Associate features information about the magazine including events and information about its writers. Contributors also receive discount offers on books and other merchandise, get information on upcoming events, and are notified about Nation discussion groups.
Each year in December, the names of the contributors (of all levels) for that year are printed in the magazine. The list of names takes up 12 pages.