Censorship: A Beginner’s Guide

By Julian Petley

Rating: 4 stars

I bought this book for my evening course on his history of censorship and have found it both accessible and fairly broad in scope. Starting with the most obvious sorts of censorship, state threats to life and property, it also covers less obvious forms such as licensing, ratings, classification and market monopolies.

Although not covering historical contexts in great depth, it does a good job of discussing the modern origins of censorship, as well as comparing the different attitudes to censorship on both sides of the Pond, particularly the greater desire to the part of British officials to regulate, something largely absent in America due to the First Amendment. However, there are other, more insidious, forms of censorship that the book describes, such as the relaxation in regulation that has left large swathes of the media in the hands of very few individuals and the effect of this on freedom of expression.

Throughout the book, Petley leaves the reader in no doubt where his sympathies lie in the debate between regulation and free speech but lays out a clear and strong argument for his point of view, and in his conclusion lays out a strong defense of freedom of expression. This was a good way to get a broad overview of the different forms of human communication over the centuries and the lengths that authorities have gone to to prevent them.

Book details

ISBN: 9781851686742
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Year of publication: 2009

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