CENSORS AT WORK: How States Shaped Literature

CENSORS AT WORK: How States Shaped Literature

ROBERT DARNTON    Book Number: 82568    Product format: Hardback

Censorship by the state has never been a more urgent issue as we confront the problems of internet pornography and terrorist propaganda. On the other hand, we proudly boast of our commitment to freedom of speech. The truth is that every society has had to face the question of how far it will allow its citizens to go. Two definitions of censorship have dominated past research: control by political or religious organisations, and the wider question of the restraints that govern every kind of communication. The author locates his discussion in three very precise historical periods and cultures: his own experience of meeting East German censors in the period after the fall of the Berlin Wall; his research into censorship in the British Raj using the archives of the 19th century Indian Civil Service; and, going further back, the censorship exercised by the 18th century Bourbon government of France through the director of book trade administration, C. G. de Lamoignon de Malesherbes. The problems encountered by Malesherbes were typical of the difficulty of pinning the subject down. Some censorship was based on content, some on literary quality, but in any case the verdict issuing from Versailles might overrule the professionals. Case studies such as the amorous and political intrigues of the Comtesse du Barry make fascinating reading, as do the incitements to sedition implied within innocuous-sounding Hindu poetry during the Raj, not to mention the complexities of Communist directives. 316pp.
Published price: £25
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ISBN 9780393242294
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