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Sites Of Censorship

Public libraries, museums, and schools are common sites of efforts to censor. The financing of libraries and museums by the public is alleged to confer a different standard than the open market, and protection of children from harmful materials is the usual justification for censorship of schoolbooks.

The development of each new medium of communication has brought with it efforts to censor that medium. Internet censorship is the latest in that line, with authorities around the world trying more or less effectively to limit access to certain Web sites and information.

Another late-twentieth-century phenomenon is the spread of "hate speech" codes on academic campuses. Intended to protect the vulnerable against speech that is alleged to express hate, the codes are open to wide-ranging interpretation and amount to imposition of judgments by whomever controls the censoring apparatus. Wherever anyone alleges that the expressions of others are insulting, offensive, or degrading, presumably those others could assert that the former's allegations are insulting, offensive, or degrading to them.

China has been a particularly active site for censorship and protests against it since the 1990s, but few observers from other countries can indulge in complacency. Derek Jones's Censorship (2001) details numerous cases of censorship of writers, directors, and artists on every continent and in almost every country in the twentieth century.

Censorship is not always an unmitigated bane for writers, artists, and publishers. One advantage is that it draws attention to works and causes. Authors have actively sought book burnings for the publicity value, and some books that have been taken off prohibited lists have seen their sales drop. Artistic careers have been made from the martyr value of censorship.

See also Arts; Democracy; Liberty; Power.



Bahrdt, Carl Friedrich. On Freedom of the Press and Its Limits. In Early French and German Defenses of Freedom of the Press, edited by John Christian Laursen and Johan van der Zande. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2003. Originally published in 1787.

Bayle, Pierre. "An Explanation Concerning Obscenities." In Bayle: Political Writings, edited by Sally L. Jenkinson. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Locke, John. "Appendix: Documents Relating to the Termination of the Licensing Act, 1695." In The Correspondence of John Locke, edited by E. S. De Beer. Vol. 8. Oxford: Clarendon, 1979.

Luzac, Elie. Essay on Freedom of Expression. In Early French and German Defenses of Freedom of the Press, edited by John Christian Laursen and Johan van der Zande. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2003. Originally published in 1749.

Milton, John. Areopagitica. In Areopagitica, and Other Political Writings of John Milton, edited by John Alvis. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999. Originally published in 1644.

Spinoza, Benedictus de [Baruch]. Theological-Political Treatise. Translated by Samuel Shirley. 2nd ed. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2001. Originally published in 1670.


Coetzee, J. M. Giving Offense: Essays on Censorship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Foerstel, Herbert N. Free Expression and Censorship in America: An Encyclopedia. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1997.

Goldstein, Robert Justin, ed. The War for the Public Mind: Political Censorship in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2000.

Harrison, Nicholas. Circles of Censorship: Censorship and its Metaphors in French History, Literature, and Theory. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.

Index on Censorship (spring 1972–). Quarterly magazine.

Israel, Jonathan. "The Intellectual Debate about Toleration in the Dutch Republic." In The Emergence of Tolerance in the Dutch Republic, edited by C. Berkvens-Stevelinck, J. Israel, and G. H. M. Posthumus Meyjes. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1997.

Jones, Derek, ed. Censorship: A World Encyclopedia. 4 vols. London and Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 2001.

Spalding, Paul. Seize the Book, Jail the Author: Johann Lorenz Schmidt and Censorship in Eighteenth-Century Germany. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 1998.

John Christian Laursen

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Categorical judgement to ChimaeraCensorship - Blasphemy, Heresy, And Atheism, Political Subversion, The Netherlands And England, From Bayle To Constant