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Teaching the Freedom of the Press The case of Early Modern England.

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1 Teaching the Freedom of the Press The case of Early Modern England

2 Understanding the freedom of press in 2012 ‘After Parliament gave judges the power to develop a right to privacy in 2000, the judiciary rejected England’s tradition of open justice with a breathtaking disdain for the past. The judges did not allow a free press to report what it knew, and punish editors only if they unjustifiably infringed the rights of others. Instead, they engaged in pre-publication censorship, the most suffocating form there is, and told newspapers in advance that they could never report forbidden facts … Then the judges screwed the lid down tighter. They turned ordinary injunctions into ‘super-injunctions, which not only barred reporters from revealing why claimants had gone to court but barred them from revealing that claimants had gone to court at all. The censors censored the fact of censorship Nick Cohen, You Can’t Read this book (2012) ‘After Parliament gave judges the power to develop a right to privacy in 2000, the judiciary rejected England’s tradition of open justice with a breathtaking disdain for the past. The judges did not allow a free press to report what it knew, and punish editors only if they unjustifiably infringed the rights of others. Instead, they engaged in pre-publication censorship, the most suffocating form there is, and told newspapers in advance that they could never report forbidden facts … Then the judges screwed the lid down tighter. They turned ordinary injunctions into ‘super-injunctions, which not only barred reporters from revealing why claimants had gone to court but barred them from revealing that claimants had gone to court at all. The censors censored the fact of censorship Nick Cohen, You Can’t Read this book (2012)

3 Contemporary Context Leveson Inquiry Leveson Inquiry Hacking and the right to privacy Hacking and the right to privacy Hateful speech Hateful speech Free speech and religious toleration Free speech and religious toleration

4 Problems of Explaining seventeenth- century context Freedom of speech and press is based on religion not politics Freedom of speech and press is based on religion not politics All people in the seventeenth-century believe in indivisible truth claims All people in the seventeenth-century believe in indivisible truth claims Students think they have rights but don’t know why Students think they have rights but don’t know why What is the opposite of toleration? What is the opposite of toleration? What is the nature of the public? What is the nature of the public?

5 Examples of restraining the press Bastwick, Burton and Prynne (1637) Henry Burton shown with his ears cut off Henry Burton shown with his ears cut off Archbishop Laud is vomiting blasphemous books Archbishop Laud is vomiting blasphemous books Demonstrates the tyranny of Charles I Demonstrates the tyranny of Charles I

6 James Naylor (1656) Demonstrates the tension of religious toleration and freedom of speech Demonstrates the tension of religious toleration and freedom of speech Harsh or exemplary punishment? Harsh or exemplary punishment? The collapse of the Cromwellian regime The collapse of the Cromwellian regime

7 Titus Oates (1685) Caused the Exclusion Crisis Caused the Exclusion Crisis Based only on rumour Based only on rumour Happened at a moment of the free press Happened at a moment of the free press

8 Daniel Defoe (1702) Effective satire on the High-Church party Effective satire on the High-Church party Happened when there was supposed to be a free press Happened when there was supposed to be a free press Ruined his career. Became a party hack Ruined his career. Became a party hack

9 A News Revolution? Key developments Key developments The invention of new technology for information dissemination (the newspaper) The invention of new technology for information dissemination (the newspaper) The creation of new sites for reading hearing and discussing the news (the coffee house) The creation of new sites for reading hearing and discussing the news (the coffee house) The development of a new occupation of circulating the news (the news-monger, news-writer or journalist)+ The development of a new occupation of circulating the news (the news-monger, news-writer or journalist)+

10 An information society but not a free press The ‘news revolution’ does not amount to the acceptance of a free press The ‘news revolution’ does not amount to the acceptance of a free press Restrictions on reporting of political events still in place – votes/debates in Parliament not officially reported – post Restoration, gov’t newspaper The London Gazette largely focuses on foreign news Restrictions on reporting of political events still in place – votes/debates in Parliament not officially reported – post Restoration, gov’t newspaper The London Gazette largely focuses on foreign news Strict laws in place governing seditious writing and speech, treason, blasphemy that place serious limitations on free expression Strict laws in place governing seditious writing and speech, treason, blasphemy that place serious limitations on free expression Even works that are published often ‘doctored’ by official licensers Even works that are published often ‘doctored’ by official licensers Seventeenth-century print displaying the supposedly blind and easily swayed nature of public opinion

11 Matthew Tindal and the case for a free press 1698 – A Letter to a Member of Parliament 1698 – A Letter to a Member of Parliament The first tract in England to make the case for a free press The first tract in England to make the case for a free press Based on religion Based on religion Man must seek salvation Man must seek salvation Man must reason to meet God Man must reason to meet God Restraining the press is priestly tyranny Restraining the press is priestly tyranny

12 Hatred of Tindal

13 Henry Sachverell – The Case for Restraint Supported by the vast majority of the nation Supported by the vast majority of the nation Believed in charitable hatred Believed in charitable hatred A free press very pernicious – the sin went on and on after death – infecting others A free press very pernicious – the sin went on and on after death – infecting others The voice of the people is the voice of hell The voice of the people is the voice of hell

14 Jurgen Habermas’ ‘Public Sphere’ Pre-emergence of a public sphere, culture dominated by ‘Representational Publicity’ – court controlled art, literature and theatre+ Pre-emergence of a public sphere, culture dominated by ‘Representational Publicity’ – court controlled art, literature and theatre+ Threatened by economic change, the decline of feudalism and the emergence of national and territorial states Threatened by economic change, the decline of feudalism and the emergence of national and territorial states These changes lead to the separation of society and the state (or ruler) and a greater demarcation between public and private realms* These changes lead to the separation of society and the state (or ruler) and a greater demarcation between public and private realms* This burgeoning market economy goes hand in hand with the development of print and a market for news This burgeoning market economy goes hand in hand with the development of print and a market for news The ‘public sphere’ that it helps create is consolidated by two developments – the notion of the ‘privatised bourgeois family’ and the ‘world of letters’ (coffee-houses, salons) – both emphasising universalised Enlightenment values and the importance of reason and the free exchange of ideas The ‘public sphere’ that it helps create is consolidated by two developments – the notion of the ‘privatised bourgeois family’ and the ‘world of letters’ (coffee-houses, salons) – both emphasising universalised Enlightenment values and the importance of reason and the free exchange of ideas

15 Characteristics of the Bourgeois Public Sphere Social status of the participants is (at least in theory) disregarded Social status of the participants is (at least in theory) disregarded Rational argument is the sole arbiter of debate (appeals to God, heredity superseded) Rational argument is the sole arbiter of debate (appeals to God, heredity superseded) Public sphere allows the discussion of formerly taboo topics (so-called arcana imperii) – Habermas sees the debate in the public sphere as inherently critical of political authority Public sphere allows the discussion of formerly taboo topics (so-called arcana imperii) – Habermas sees the debate in the public sphere as inherently critical of political authority It is in real terms inclusive It is in real terms inclusive

16 The test case of England Habermas: ‘A public sphere that functioned in the political realm arose first in Great Britain at the turn of the eighteenth-century’ Why England? Why England? 1695 lapsing of the licensing act signals an effective end to censorship 1695 lapsing of the licensing act signals an effective end to censorship 1694 founding of the Bank of England/facilitating of capitalist processes 1694 founding of the Bank of England/facilitating of capitalist processes Development of Parliament and the emergence of cabinet government* Development of Parliament and the emergence of cabinet government* Political violence is replaced by the party system as the medium of political opposition Political violence is replaced by the party system as the medium of political opposition Toleration Act 1689 – effective separation of church and state – religion becomes more a matter of personal belief Toleration Act 1689 – effective separation of church and state – religion becomes more a matter of personal belief

17 Criticisms of Habermas’ model Chronology – a number of historians – such as Peter Lake – argue that something like a ‘public sphere’ is in existence a long time before 1690s* Chronology – a number of historians – such as Peter Lake – argue that something like a ‘public sphere’ is in existence a long time before 1690s* Habermas places too much emphasis upon reason and politics – rumour and scandal just as important+ Habermas places too much emphasis upon reason and politics – rumour and scandal just as important+ Socially, the ‘public sphere’ of critical debate not just ‘bourgeois’ but included those below the gentry level – mass petitioning – evidence of seditious words indictments Socially, the ‘public sphere’ of critical debate not just ‘bourgeois’ but included those below the gentry level – mass petitioning – evidence of seditious words indictments Yet the arenas for public debate – ex. Coffee houses, neither as open or debate within them as reasoned as H and his supporters make out# Yet the arenas for public debate – ex. Coffee houses, neither as open or debate within them as reasoned as H and his supporters make out# Emergence of new media and new arenas for debate also exploited by the crown- not necessarily oppositional Emergence of new media and new arenas for debate also exploited by the crown- not necessarily oppositional A free press or freedom of expression still not the goal of these debates and restrictions remain in place A free press or freedom of expression still not the goal of these debates and restrictions remain in place

18 Conclusion 1 The seventeenth to early eighteenth century undoubtedly saw the emergence of something like modern ‘mass media’ The seventeenth to early eighteenth century undoubtedly saw the emergence of something like modern ‘mass media’ This is not the same thing as a free press This is not the same thing as a free press Much of this new technology was harnessed to pursuing ‘long- established religious and ideological conflicts’ Much of this new technology was harnessed to pursuing ‘long- established religious and ideological conflicts’ ‘Public spheres’ rather than one unified arena for political debate ‘Public spheres’ rather than one unified arena for political debate Early modern public sphere contracted by end of Stuart period Early modern public sphere contracted by end of Stuart period Portrait of Henry Sacheverell, tried in 1710 for seditious libel

19 Conclusion 2 – The Sacheverell Affair

20 Satirizing Censorship


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