The first emergence of the Libertarian Alliance can be dated to 1967, when Chris Tame established it informally as a breakaway group from the Society for Individual Liberty. Through this connection, it traces its ancestry further back, through the Society of Individualists, to the Liberty and Property Defence League of the nineteenth century. Its formal establishment came in 1979, when Chris Tame, David Ramsay Steele, Mark Brady and Judy Englander, together with David Farrar, and David Daviis, met at a flat in Woking to draft its first constitution. Its purpose was to spread the libertarian message by holding public meetings, by engaging with the media and by publishing. Its mission is summarised on the first page of the first edition of its journal, Free Life:

What we want is a government so small that it doesn’t matter where it is, what it does, who’s in it, or how they got there.

A fuller statement is given in its pamphlet, The Purpose and Strategy of the Libertarian Alliance, first published in 1981. The Libertarian Alliance would, by focussing attention on the intellectual classes, seek to bring about a long term shift of belief from statism to individualism. This would be a shift not marked by mass-membership or won elections, but by the quality and volume of publications, and by the effect of these publications on those who formed the opinions of the masses.

The Libertarian Alliance was led at first by Chris Tame and David Ramsay Steele. From 1983, it was led by Chris Tame and Brian Micklethwait, and from 1997 by Chris Tame and Sean Gabb. Following Dr Tame’s death in 2006, it was led by Sean Gabb and Timothy Evans, and from 2011 by Dr Gabb alone. Dr Gabb retired as Director in 2017 and was followed by Keir Martland. He was followed in 2022 by Alan Bickley, who is both Editor of Free Life and Director of the Libertarian Alliance.