Basingstoke is an old market town expanded in the mid 1960s as a result of an agreement between London County Council and Hampshire County Council. It was developed rapidly after World War II, along with various other towns in the United Kingdom, in order to accommodate part of the London 'overspill' as perceived under the Greater London Plan in 1944. Basingstoke market was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, and it remained a small market town until the early 1960s. At the start of World War II the population was little more than 13,000. It still has a regular market, but is now larger than Hampshire County Council's definition of a market town.
Basingstoke has become an important economic centre during the second half of the 20th century, and houses the locations of the UK headquarters of De La Rue, Sun Life Financial, The Automobile Association, ST Ericsson, GAME, Motorola, Barracuda Networks, Eli Lilly and Company, FCB Halesway part of FCB, BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, the leasing arm of BNP Paribas in the UK, and Sony Professional Solutions. It is also the location of the European headquarters of the TaylorMade-Adidas Golf Company. Other industries include publishing (e.g. Palgrave Macmillan), IT, telecommunications, insurance and electronics.
The name Basingstoke (A.D 990; Embasinga stocæ, Domesday; Basingestoches) is believed to have been derived from the town's position as the outlying, western settlement of Basa's people. The ending -stoke means outlying settlement or possibly refers to a stockade that surrounded the settlement in early medieval times (of which there is now no trace). Basing, now Old Basing, a village 2 miles (3 km) to the east, is thought to have the same etymology, and was the original Anglo-Saxon settlement of the people led by a tribal chief called "Basa". It remained the main settlement until changes in the local church moved the religious base from St Marys Church, Basing, to the church in Basingstoke.
A Neolithic campsite of around 3000 BC beside a spring on the west of the town is the earliest known human settlement here, but the Willis Museum has flint implements and axes from nearby fields that date back to Palæolithic times. The hillfort at Winklebury (2 miles (3 km) west of the town centre), known locally as Winklebury Camp or Winklebury Ring dates from the Iron age and there are remains of several other earthworks around Basingstoke, including a long barrow near Down Grange. The site of Winklebury camp is now home to Fort Hill Community School. Nearby, to the west, Roman Road marks the course of a Roman road that ran from Winchester to Silchester. Further to the east, another Roman road ran from Chichester through the outlying villages of Upton Grey and Mapledurwell. The Harrow Way is an Iron-age ancient route that runs to the south of the town. The first recorded historical event here was the victory gained by Æthelred of Wessex and Alfred the Great over the Danes in 871. Again, in 904, Basingstoke saw a savage battle between Edward the Elder, Alfred's only son, and his cousin Æthelwald.
Basingstoke is recorded as a weekly market site in the Domesday Book, in 1086, and has held a regular Wednesday market since 1214. During the Civil War, and the siege of Basing House between 1643 and 1645, the town played host to large numbers of Parliamentarians. During this time, St. Michael's Church was damaged whilst being used as an explosive store and lead was stripped from the roof of the Chapel of the Holy Ghost, Basingstoke leading to its eventual ruin. It had been incorporated in 1524, but was effectively out of use after the Civil War. The 17th century saw serious damage to much of the town and its churches, because of the great fires of 1601 and 1656. Cromwell is thought to have stayed here towards the end of the siege of Basing House, and wrote a letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons addressed from Basingstoke.