Book censorship

Book censorship is the act of some authority, government or otherwise, taking measures to prevent access to a book or to part of its contents. It can be enacted at the national or subnational level, and can carry legal penalties. Books may also be challenged at a local community level, although successful bans do not extend outside that area. Similarly, religions may issue lists of banned books—a historical example being the Roman Catholic Church's Index Librorum Prohibitorum—which do not always carry legal force.

Quema de libros
Chilean soldiers burn books considered politically subversive in 1973, under Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.


"Almost every country places some restrictions on what may be published, although the emphasis and the degree of control differ from country to country and at different periods."[1] There are a variety of reasons for which books may be banned. Materials are often suppressed due to the perceived notion of obscenity. This obscenity can apply to materials that are about sexuality, race, drugs, or social standing.[2] The censorship of literature on the charge of obscenity appears to have begun in the early 19th century.[3] The rise of the middle class, who had evangelical backgrounds, brought about this concern with obscenity.[3]

Governments have also sought to ban certain books which they perceive to contain material that could threaten, embarrass, or criticize them.[4]

Other leaders outside the government have banned books, including religious authorities.[5] Church leaders who prohibit members of their faith from reading the banned books may want to shelter them from perceived obscene, immoral, or profane ideas or situations or from ideas that may challenge the teaching of that religion.[6]

But even religious materials have been subject to censorship. For example, various scriptures have been banned (and sometimes burned at several points in history). The Bible, and other religious scriptures have all been subjected to censorship and have been banned by various governments. Similarly, books based on the scriptures have also been banned, such as Leo Tolstoy's The Kingdom of God Is Within You, which was banned in the Russian Empire for being anti-establishment.[7]

Banning of a book often has the effect of making people seek the book.[8] The action of banning the book creates an interest in the book which has the opposite effect of making the work more popular.[8]

Book burning

Book burning is the practice of destroying, often ceremonially, books or other written material. It is usually carried out in public, and is generally motivated by moral, religious, or political objections to the material, with a desire to censor it.

Challenged books

Banned books graph
This graph shows the number of book challenges from 2000-2005 and the most popular reasons for the challenges

See also


  2. ^ "About Banned & Challenged Books".
  3. ^ a b University of South Florida. "USF NetID Single-SignOn - University of South Florida".
  4. ^ "Banned Books Online".
  5. ^ "Index Librorum Prohibitorum". Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  6. ^ University of South Florida. "USF NetID Single-SignOn - University of South Florida".
  7. ^
  8. ^ a b "Could Banning Books Actually Encourage More Readers?". 20 September 2013.

Further reading

  • Haight, Anne (1970). Banned books informal notes on some books banned for various reasons at various times and in various places (3d ed.). New York: R.R. Bowker. ISBN 978-0-8352-0204-6.
  • Robert Darnton Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature W. W. Norton & Company, 2014 ISBN 0393242293
  • Edwards, M. J. (2017). Christianity, Book-Burning and Censorship in Late Antiquity. The Journal Of Ecclesiastical History, 68(4), 825-827.
  • Neilson, W. A. (1930). Is Official Censorship of Books Desirable? CON. Congressional Digest, 9(2), 56-57.
Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, that celebrates the freedom to read, draws attention to banned and challenged books, and highlights persecuted individuals. Held during the last week of September since 1982, the United States campaign "stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them" and the requirement to keep material publicly available so that people can develop their own conclusions and opinions. The international campaign notes individuals "persecuted because of the writings that they produce, circulate or read." Some of the events that occur during Banned Book Week are The Virtual Read-Out and The First Amendment Film Festival. The 2018 Banned Books Week began on September 23 and ended on September 29.

Book censorship in China

Book censorship in the People's Republic of China (PRC) is implemented or mandated by the PRC's ruling party, the Communist Party of China. Book censorship is widespread in China. Enforcement is strict and sometimes inconsistent. Punishment for violations can result in prison. The Chinese government is extremely sensitive to any opinions on the politics and history of China and its leaders that differ from currently sanctioned opinions or that discuss topics that are officially taboo. What is officially taboo can change over time.

Nowadays, book censorship does exist not only in mainland China but also in Hong Kong. Causeway Bay Books is an example.

Book censorship in Iran

Since the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, the constitution of Iran states regarding freedom of expression: "the press is free to express their opinion, unless it is against the foundation of Islam or rights of the people, and the law will explain the details". (article 24, The Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran).The details have been explained, not in legislation of the parliament, but in an act issued by the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution, which names the subjects that "do not deserve to be published", for example: Renouncing the fundamentals of religion; promoting corruption; inviting the society to riot against Iran; promoting the ideas of terrorist and illegal groups and corrupted sects and defending monarchy; stimulating conflicts between the various ethnic or religious groups or creating problems in the unity of the society and the country; mocking and weakening the national pride and nationalistic spirit, and creating an atmosphere of losing national values to the culture and civilization of western or eastern colonizing systems.

Book censorship in the Republic of Ireland

Book censorship was carried out in Ireland from 1929 until 2010 when all prior bans expired. However, the laws remained on the statute books and a book was banned again in 2016. Censorship was enacted by a 1929 act of the Irish Free State.

Book censorship in the United States

Book censorship "is the removal, suppression, or restricted circulation of literary, artistic, or educational material--of images, ideas, and information--on the grounds that these are morally or otherwise objectionable in the light of standards applied by the censor." Censorship is "the regulation of speech and other forms of expression by an entrenched authority,". The overall intent of censorship, in any form, is to act as "a kind of safeguard for society, typically to protect norms and values, censorship suppresses what is considered objectionable from a political, moral, or religious standpoint."The Marshall University Libraries, which conduct research on banned books in the United States, have defined a banned book as one that has been "removed from a library, classroom, etc." and a challenged book as one that "has been requested to be removed from a library, classroom, etc." by a censor.

Public and school libraries in the US have the ability to limit children's choice of books to read. This problem “highlights the tension between parental authority and society, but it is ultimately about defining American Value.” It has been suggested that as there are parental guidance to movies, there is a need for something similar for books. Some of the banned books are valuable in helping children discover their identifies or educate themselves.

Sponsors of literacy in education have carried out censorship, including parents, school boards, lobbying groups, clergy, librarians and teachers. Banning, one of the most permanent and effective method of censorship, begins with a challenge and then progresses until the book is no longer available to any student in a school, library or district. In many cases, books are banned or petitioned to be banned by parents who are concerned about the material their children are reading. People For The American Way, an organization concerned with protecting progressive values such as equal rights and freedom of speech, reported that in the school year from 1991–1992, the success of censors in having books removed in some capacity rose to 41 percent from 34 percent in the previous year. In response, several professional organizations such as the American Library Association (ALA), the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the National Coalition Against Censorship have employed various initiatives to help combat book censorship in all its forms. Combating book censorship with their advocacy for First Amendment rights, these long-standing organizations have been at the center of multiple Supreme Court cases spanning from the early 1970s.

Borstal Boy

Borstal Boy is a 1958 autobiographical book by Brendan Behan. The story depicts a young, fervently idealistic Behan, who loses his naïveté over the three years of his sentence to a juvenile borstal, softening his radical Irish republican stance and warming to his British fellow prisoners. From a technical standpoint, the novel is chiefly notable for the art with which it captures the lively dialogue of the Borstal inmates, with all the variety of the British Isles' many subtly distinctive accents intact on the page. Ultimately, Behan demonstrated by his skillful dialogue that working class Irish Catholics and English Protestants actually had more in common with one another through class than they had supposed, and that alleged barriers of religion and ethnicity were merely superficial and imposed by a fearful middle class.

The book was banned in Ireland for unspecified reasons in 1958; the ban expired in 1970.

Burning of books and burying of scholars

The burning of books and burying of scholars (simplified Chinese: 焚书坑儒; traditional Chinese: 焚書坑儒; pinyin: fénshū kēngrú) refers to the supposed burning of texts in 213 BCE and live burial of 460 Confucian scholars in 212 BCE by the Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty of Imperial China. The event caused the loss of many philosophical treatises of the Hundred Schools of Thought. The official philosophy of government ("legalism") survived.

Modern scholars doubt the details of the story in the Records of the Grand Historian—the main source—since Sima Qian, the author, wrote a century or so after the events and was an official of the Han dynasty, which could be expected to portray the previous rulers unfavorably. While it is clear that the First Emperor gathered and destroyed many works which he regarded as subversive, two copies of each school were to be preserved in imperial libraries. These were destroyed in the fighting following the fall of the dynasty. It is now believed that there likely was an incident, but they were not Confucians and were not "buried alive".

Churchmen's Committee for Decent Publications

The Churchmen's Committee for Decent Publications was a Protestant pro-censorship, anti-pornography advocacy group in the United States. It was a contemporary of the Roman Catholic National Organization for Decent Literature and the National Legion of Decency.

Freedom to Read Foundation

The Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF) is an American non-profit anti-censorship organization, established in 1969 by the American Library Association. The organization has been active in First Amendment-based challenges to book removals from libraries, and in anti-surveillance work. In addition to its legal work, the FTRF engages in advocacy and public awareness, such as its sponsorship of the annual celebration of "Banned Books Week".

Index Librorum Prohibitorum

The Index librorum prohibitorum (Latin, "List of Prohibited Books") was a list of publications deemed heretical, or contrary to morality by the Sacred Congregation of the Index (a former Dicastery of the Roman Curia) and thus Catholics were forbidden to read them without permission.There were scattered attempts to censor individual books before the sixteenth century, notably the ninth-century Decretum Glasianum, but none of these were either official or widespread. Much later, a first version (the Pauline Index) was promulgated by Pope Paul IV in 1559, which Paul F. Grendler believed marked "the turning-point for the freedom of enquiry in the Catholic world", and which lasted less than a year, being then replaced by what was called the Tridentine Index (because it was authorized at the Council of Trent), which relaxed aspects of the Pauline Index that had been criticized and had prevented its acceptance.The 20th and final edition appeared in 1948, and the Index was formally abolished on 14 June 1966 by Pope Paul VI.The aim of the list was to protect the faith and morals of the faithful by preventing the reading of theologically, culturally, and politically disruptive books. Books thought to contain such errors included works by astronomers such as Johannes Kepler's Epitome astronomiae Copernicanae, which was on the Index from 1621 to 1835, and by philosophers, like Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. The various editions of the Index also contained the rules of the Church relating to the reading, selling and pre-emptive censorship of books—editions and translations of the Bible that had not been approved by the Church could be banned.Latin Church canon law still recommends that works concerning sacred Scripture, theology, canon law, church history, and any writings which specially concern religion or morals, be submitted to the judgment of the local ordinary. The local ordinary consults someone whom he considers competent to give a judgment and, if that person gives the nihil obstat ("nothing forbids") the local ordinary grants the imprimatur ("let it be printed"). Members of religious institutes require the imprimi potest (it can be printed) of their major superior to publish books on matters of religion or morals.Some of the scientific theories in works that were on early editions of the Index have long been routinely taught at Catholic universities worldwide; for example, the general prohibition of books advocating heliocentrism was only removed from the Index in 1758, but already in 1742 two Minims mathematicians had published an edition of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica (1687) with commentaries and a preface stating that the work assumed heliocentrism and could not be explained without it. The burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno, whose entire works were placed on the Index in 1603, was because of teaching the heresy of pantheism, not for heliocentrism or other scientific views. Antonio Rosmini-Serbati, one of whose works was on the Index, was beatified in 2007. Some have argued that the developments since the abolition of the Index signify "the loss of relevance of the Index in the 21st century."A complete list of the authors and writings present in the successive editions of the Index is given in J. Martínez de Bujanda, Index Librorum Prohibitorum, 1600–1966. A list of the books that were on the Index can be found on the World Wide Web.


Kiwix is a free and open-source offline web browser created by Emmanuel Engelhart and Renaud Gaudin in 2007. It was first launched to allow offline access to Wikipedia, but has since expanded to include other projects from the Wikimedia Foundation as well as public domain texts from Project Gutenberg. Available in more than 100 languages, Kiwix has been included in several high-profile projects, from smuggling operations in North Korea and encyclopedic access in Cuba to Google Impact Challenge's recipient Bibliothèques Sans Frontières.

New York Society for the Suppression of Vice

The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (NYSSV or SSV) was an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public, founded in 1873. Its specific mission was to monitor compliance with state laws and work with the courts and district attorneys in bringing offenders to justice. It and its members also pushed for additional laws against perceived immoral conduct. While the NYSSV is better remembered for its opposition to literary works, it also closely monitored the newsstands, commonly found on city sidewalks and in transportation terminals, which sold the popular newspapers and periodicals of the day.

The NYSSV was founded by Anthony Comstock and his supporters in the Young Men's Christian Association. It was chartered by the New York state legislature, which granted its agents powers of search, seizure and arrest, and awarded the society 50% of all fines levied in resulting cases. After his death in 1915, Comstock was succeeded by John S. Sumner. In 1947, the organization's name was changed to the Society to Maintain Public Decency. After Sumner's retirement in 1950, the organization was dissolved. The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice is not to be confused with its namesake, the earlier, 19th-century Society for the Suppression of Vice.

Obscene Publications Acts

Since 1857, a series of obscenity laws known as the Obscene Publications Acts have governed what can be published in England and Wales. The classic definition of criminal obscenity is if it "tends to deprave and corrupt," stated in 1868 by Lord Justice Cockburn, in Regina v. Hicklin, now known as the Hicklin test.

Obscenity trial of Ulysses in The Little Review

The obscenity trial over the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses in The Little Review, an American literary magazine, occurred in 1921 and effectively banned publication of Joyce's novel in the United States. After The Little Review published the "Nausicaa" episode of Ulysses in the 1920 July–August issue of the magazine, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice instigated obscenity charges against Little Review editors Margaret Caroline Anderson and Jane Heap. The editors were found guilty under laws associated with the Comstock Act of 1873, which made it illegal to circulate materials deemed obscene in the U.S. mail. Anderson and Heap incurred a $100 fine, and were forced to cease publishing Ulysses in The Little Review.

Outline of books

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to books:

Book – set of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of ink, paper, parchment, or other materials, usually fastened together to hinge at one side.

Russian book ban in Ukraine

On December 30, 2016, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine signed into law a decree that restricts import of books into Ukraine from Russia.According to the law, a person can bring at most 10 Russian books without a permit. Unauthorized distribution of books from Russia is under a penalty.This is an element of the ongoing military conflict between Ukraine and Rusia.The law was considered in the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) since September 2016 and followed in spirit the 2015 ban of 38 books from Russia with the purpose of "safeguarding Ukrainian citizens against the use of information warfare and disinformation methods, against the spread of hate ideology, fascism, xenophobia and separatism". Among banned were books by Russian nationalists Alexander Dugin, Eduard Limonov and Sergei Glazyev.Russian books accounted for some 60% of the market, and the bookselling experts predicted a considerable disruption of the business, book shortages, as well as the growth of the book black market.The State Committee for Television and Radio-broadcasting, whose duties include enforcing the information policy in Ukraine, is set in charge of book permits and is to issue bans on books deemed inappropriate which come "from territory of the aggressor state and from the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine". Types of printed matter which require permits include books, brochures, children's books including coloring books, as well as maps, atlases, globes, etc. Each permit is to be entered into the special state register and is valid for at most 5 years. Bans are based on evaluations by a council of experts and may be contested.For example, in August 2017 the Committee banned two novels of Boris Akunin and memoirs of Vladimir Vysotsky.

In December 2018 it banned a number of children books from Russia about Russian epic bogatyrs, as well as some memoirs and historical books.The committee also maintains a list of Ukrainophobic, racist, terrorist, etc. books for importers not to seek permit (202 items in the September 26, 2018 list). In September 2018 Lviv Regional Council banned public use of Russian-language books, films and songs in the region until Russia's withdrawal from Ukraine.

The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye is a story by J. D. Salinger, partially published in serial form in 1945–1946 and as a novel in 1951. A classic novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular among adolescent readers for its themes of angst, alienation and as a critique on superficiality in society. It has been translated into almost all of the world's major languages.Around one million copies are sold each year, with total sales of more than 65 million books. The novel's protagonist, Holden Caulfield, has become an icon for teenage rebellion. The novel also deals with complex issues of innocence, identity, belonging, loss, and connection.

The novel was included on Time's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2003, it was listed at #15 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.

The Country Girls

The Country Girls is a trilogy by Irish author Edna O'Brien. It consists of three novels: The Country Girls (1960), The Lonely Girl (1962), and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). The trilogy was re-released in 1986 in a single volume with a revised ending to Girls in Their Married Bliss and addition of an epilogue. The Country Girls, both the trilogy and the novel, is often credited with breaking silence on sexual matters and social issues during a repressive period in Ireland following World War II and was later adapted into film. All three novels were banned by the Irish censorship board and faced significant public disdain in Ireland. O'Brien won the Kingsley Amis Award in 1962 for The Country Girls.

The Dark (McGahern novel)

The Dark is the second novel by Irish writer John McGahern, published in 1965.

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