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Banned Books

Banned books are books that have been censored or suppressed by authorities for various reasons, such as political, religious, moral, or social. The history of banned books is a long and complex one, dating back to ancient times when books were burned or destroyed by rulers who feared their influence may challenge their authority. Some of the earliest examples of banned books include the works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek philosophers, who were accused of corrupting the youth and spreading atheism.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church banned many books that contradicted its doctrines or criticized its practices, such as the Protestant writings of Martin Luther, John Wycliffe, and Jan Hus. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century made it easier to produce and distribute books, but also increased the attempts to control and censor them. Many books were banned or burned during the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the Inquisition, and the wars of religion that followed. Some of the most famous banned books from this period include the works of Galileo and Copernicus.

The Enlightenment and the French Revolution in the 18th century ushered in a new era of freedom of expression and tolerance, but also provoked new forms of censorship and repression. Many books were banned or confiscated by governments that feared the spread of revolutionary ideas or challenged their legitimacy. Some of the most notable banned books from this period include the works of Rousseau, Diderot, Kant, Paine, and Wollstonecraft. Similarly, revolutionaries despised writings that popularised aristocracy or monarchy.

The 19th century saw the rise of nationalism, imperialism, and colonialism, which led to new conflicts and controversies over books that dealt with issues such as slavery, race, gender, class, and religion. Some of the most controversial banned books from this period include the works of Darwin, Marx, Flaubert, Zola, Twain, and Wilde.

The 20th century witnessed two world wars, fascism, communism, decolonization, and globalization, which had a profound impact on the production and consumption of books. Many books were banned or censored by totalitarian regimes that sought to control information and propaganda. Some of the most infamous banned books from this period include the works of Orwell, Huxley, Solzhenitsyn, Nabokov, and Rushdie. The rise of democracy and human rights in the second half of the century also led to new challenges and debates over books that addressed topics such as sexuality, violence, racism, sexism, and censorship itself. Some of the most influential banned books from this period include the works of Miller, Salinger, Baldwin, Beauvoir, Kinsey, and Foucault.

By the 1960s and censorship board was set up in America to control comics. You may regard this as slightly different because there is, of course a safeguarding issue with young people. However, writers and artists felt that the censorship board was so strict that they were running out of material to write about, something which comedians worry about in the 21st century.

Ironically, during the rise of communism in the 20th century, whole countries banned religion altogether, and fascist Germany decided to re-represent those ancient texts by making the, fit the Aryan narrative.

The 21st century has seen new developments in technology and media that have transformed the way people access and share books. The internet has enabled a global circulation of books that transcends borders and barriers. However, it has also created new opportunities and threats for censorship and surveillance. The Bible is currently banned in 52 countries, in most it is punishable to read it. Many books are still banned or restricted by governments that violate human rights or fear dissent. Some of the most recent examples of banned books include the works of Liu Xiaobo, Ai Weiwei, Khaled Hosseini, J.K. Rowling, and Salman Rushdie. The emergence of social media has also sparked new controversies and debates over books that provoke reactions from online communities or offend sensibilities.

Some of the most controversial books from this period include the works of Dan Brown, E.L. James, J.D. Vance, Jordan Peterson, and Michelle Obama.

Societies change and develop, and as views change so does the theme of their intolerance. It’s quite uncanny that we have reached 2023 and there are still many things that people cannot access, and many writers feel that they are not allowed to express their thoughts, beliefs, or opinions for fear of retribution, or what has commonly become known as being cancelled. Throughout time, the kickback from this has been that people will still write what they feel and what they believe, even if they must do it underground. For those who have a truth, they will not bundle it up and hide it away. Ironically, the usual upshot of banning a book sems to be that people are more eager to read it.

As writers, I would expect that you would agree that there should be no restrictions within limits about what you should write. Similarly, I don’t think anybody would advocate offending people for the sake of it, but that is very different from being silenced completely.

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