Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Brief, Somewhat Ironic Timeline of French Censorship

French National Assembly 1789:
"Free communication of thought and opinion is one of the most precious rights of man; every citizen may therefore speak, write, and print freely." 

1857 under Napoleon III:
Six of Charles Baudelaire's poems banned by French government.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19, 1948:
"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Ban on Baudelaire's poems lifted. 


Ian Kuehne said...

These are some really good examples of how some of the ideals of the Revolution took an absurdly long time to come into practice. In the French Revolution, people wanted a modern government with rights like free speech; instead, they got the terribly repressive Terror followed by the ineffective Directory followed by the dictatorial reign of Napoleon followed by the backwards absolutism of the Bourbon Restoration followed by the ineffectiveness and eventually repression of Louis-Phillipe followed by failed socialism followed by another Emperor... (I skipped a few.) It took a lot of barricades before they got a constitution that lasted long enough for the ink to dry. Apologies to Mrs. Quinet for oversimplifying history.

Amy Clement said...

What the French government chose to censor seems odd to me. Most cases of censorship are literature that criticizes the government. With Baudelaire, his poems were simply risqué. I don't see why they found it necessary to ban the poems since they did not pose any threat to the government's authority.

Samantha Gillen said...

These laws remind me of the US Constitution's 15th amendment. It was ratified in 1870, but African Americans still faced voting obstacles such as poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and literacy tests. These stipulations were able to circumvent the amendment's guidelines; they were put in place by white members of government who wanted to continue keeping blacks from voting. White-only primaries and aggressive groups such as the Klu Klux Klan also kept blacks from voting. Eventually, the Supreme Court interpreted the law differently and struck down many of the obstacles that had once prevented blacks from voting.