The War for the Public Mind: Political Censorship in Nineteenth-Century Europe

By Ashdown, Paul | Journalism History, Autumn 2000 | Go to article overview

The War for the Public Mind: Political Censorship in Nineteenth-Century Europe


Ashdown, Paul, Journalism History


Book Reviews

Goldstein, Robert Justin, ed. The War for the Public Mind: Political Censorship in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2000. 288 pp. $64.

In 1852, the Russian writer Ivan Turgenev approached the Moscow censor Prince V.V. Lvov to seek his assistance in publishing Sportsman's Sketches, a collection of previously published articles critical of serfdom. The book was eventually published but not before Turgenev spent a month in a military guardhouse and Lvov was fired by the czar. In 1859 a new edition was published only after a new czar announced his intention to abolish serfdom, and another censor championed the book's release. Similar literary dances between rulers, writers, artists, and designated, often befuddled, guardians of public order were underway throughout Europe between 1815 and 1914, the de facto nineteenth century. Robert Goldstein, a professor of political science at Oakland University and the author of several books on the history of censorship and political repression in Europe and America, has capably compiled six essays by noted scholars, including himself, who explore the evolution of free expression in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the Austrian Empire and Russia.

While few writers found the encouragement from censors that Turgenev enjoyed, there is a sense that governments knew they were trying to hold back an unstoppable tide of freedom in the years between the end of the Napoleonic era and the commencement of the First World War. For, as Goldstein argues in a perceptive introduction, a war for the public mind was well underway throughout the century, so much so that a socialist newspaper in Germany could say, on the eve of World War I: "In waging our war, we do not throw bombs. …

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