The name of Gotham City was first identified as Batman’s home in 1940 (Batman #4). Over the years the city has evolved and taken elements from various different cities in the United States. Chicago and New York City are two of my favorite sources. Chicago for its rich criminal mafia background and New York City for obvious reasons as its been bearing the nickname since the early nineteenth century long before Batman’s creation.
While much of the Batman-mytho associated with Gotham comes from the modern nights, a number of authors have attempted to give the city a richer history and background. As one wants to give the city a realistic atmosphere it needs to have a foundation from which it grew. A major economic center such as Gotham did not become that way over night.
Most recently with the reboot of the DC Universe and the New 52, Gotham has had Jonah Hex and Amadeus Arkham develling into the corrupt backhistory and cult of the Crime Bible. The opening arc of Batman has also had Bruce looking into a centuries old organization known as the Court of Owls which is deeply embedded into the very architecture and history of Gotham City. Alan Wayne, Bruce’s great, great-grandfather having apparently been a victim of the group.
Other notable history thats been put to pen for Gotham include comparisons to New York City’s founding by the Dutch. Swamp Thing #53 states a Norwegian mercenary founded Gotham City and the British later taking control of the city. Gotham City was also noted for a major battle location of the American Revolutionary War.
More recent hardships before the current reboot which havent been defined as still being part of continuity include the city has been noted as facing have been the outbreak of a lethal disease called The Clench that ended up having it quarantined. It’s also been victim of a massive earthquake that caused so much damage the federal government cut Gotham off from the rest of the United States for a time.