From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Gotham" has been a nickname for New York City that first became popular in the nineteenth century; Washington Irving had first attached it to New York in the November 11, 1807 edition of his Salmagundi, a periodical which lampooned New York culture and politics. Irving took the name from the village of Gotham, Nottinghamshire, England: a place inhabited, according to folklore, by fools." --Sholem Stein
The name Gotham comes from the Old English for "goat home".
References to Gotham in literature
The village is most famed for the stories of the "Wise Men of Gotham".
These depict the people of the village as being stupid. However, the reason for the behaviour is believed to be that the villagers wished to feign madness to avoid a Royal Highway being built through the village, as they would then be expected to build and maintain this route. Madness was believed at the time to be highly contagious, and when King John's knights saw the villagers behaving as if insane, the knights swiftly withdrew and the King's road was re-routed to avoid the village.
One of the mad deeds seen by the knights was a group of villagers fencing off a small tree to keep a cuckoo captive from the Sheriff of Nottingham. One of the three pubs in the village is known as the "Cuckoo Bush Inn".
Reminded of the foolish ingenuity of Gotham's residents, Washington Irving gave the name "Gotham" to New York City in his Salmagundi Papers (1807). In turn, Bill Finger named the pastiche New York home of Batman, Gotham City. The existence of Gotham, Nottinghamshire in the DC Universe was recently acknowledged in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight No. 206 (and again in 52 No. 27), although the connection between two names within the DCU has not been fully explained. In a story titled 'Cityscape' in Batman Chronicles No. 6 it is revealed that Gotham was initially built for the purpose of housing the criminally insane, and Robin reads a journal that tells of how Gotham got its name; "I even have a name for it. We could call it 'Gotham' after a village in England – where, according to common belief, all are bereft of their wits."
Responding to the connection between the Gotham in Nottinghamshire and Gotham for New York City, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani wrote that it was "a pleasure to have this opportunity to acknowledge the cultural and historical link" between the two places.