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The Theory and Practice of Censorship Essay

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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'.”
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...elopment of print culture. The ideal of a unified country could not exist with a multiplicity of truths so the reaction was to eliminate the falsities (determined by whoever was on the throne at the time). As stability in society grew the need for such stringent censorship lessened and made way for a new paradigm of ideas that allowed “informed criticism and comment.” So while printing caused concern for those in power for some time eventually it allowed for the multiplicity of ideas as censorship began to lessen.



Works Cited

Loades, D.M. "The Theory and Practice of Censorship in Sixteenth-Century England." Transactions of the Royal Historical Society. (1974): 141-157.

Febvre, Lucien, and Henri-Jean Martin. The Coming of the Book. London: Verso, 1984.

Darnton, Robert. The Devil in the Holy Water. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010



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