The Theory And Practice Of Censorship

1328 words - 5 pages

The development and influx of print resources brought about many changes to society, from education to science. It also affected the control the government had over the expression of its citizens and how it saw the circulation of these ideas. Printing was seen as a major invention important for circulating great pieces of scholarship, though it created a problem for those trying to keep scandalous and heretical ideas from being disseminated. D.M. Loades describes, “Writings were tangible objects, and printed books and pamphlets went through a sophisticated process of production. So, although the principles behind censorship and suppression of seditious speech were the same, and the laws extremely similar, the techniques of enforcement naturally differed.” Before printing, seditious ideas were not as easily spread, the development of print enabled the reproduction of print materials that could be easily passed around. Governments and established authority had a stake in the suppression of these types of materials as divisive, heretical and treasonous.
Authorities would have every desire to suppress the kinds of materials that would soil their credibility. Money and power enabled the suppression of these materials through police investigations, arrests and other criminalization. In the Tudor era, laws existed against spreading any falsities which could cause turmoil between the king and his people or other nobles,
“Provided that any- one who should 'tell or publish any false news or tales whereby discord or occasion of discord or slander may grow between the king and his people, or the great men of the realm . . .' should be imprisoned 'until he hath brought him into the court which was the first deviser of the tale'.”
The church was particularly interested in keeping heretical works out of circulation. In England, “No books were to be imported without episcopal permission, and no new works were to be printed without licence from the same authority.” In times of political insecurity governments were more sensitive to treasonous words. This in turn creates stress for printers who had to be careful to print anything seditious. Royal licensing was a solution for those in authority to keep printers from producing subversive materials but underground publishers began to appear to get around government approval. These publishers risked imprisonment of three months and fines of £10 per book, repeat offenders risked perpetual imprisonment.
Anything that would deviate from the norm of accepted belief could be seen as heresy in many cases. Here too, the desire by those in authority to keep these ideas from being circulated would create an environment of suppression especially in religious cases. Printers and writers could be arrested for their circulation or even possession of these kinds of works. Plantin, later a very successful book manufacturer, at one time had to leave the country for being accused of printing heretical materials. Printers...

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