"So That The Common Man May See What Kind of Tree Bears Such Harmful Fruit": Defamation, Dissent, and Censorship In The Holy Roman Empire, ca. 1555-1648
AdvisorKarant-Nunn, Susan C.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractFor more than thirty years, historians of the Holy Roman Empire have registered little discernible interest in imperial censorship during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As historical scholarship has evolved in its understanding of the Holy Roman Empire during this period, it has lagged behind in its appreciation for how imperial authorities controlled expression and regulated the book trade. Old assumptions about imperial censorship have been slow to wither and decay even though assumptions about the Empire have been reexamined and revised. Where a growing appreciation for the Empire's complexities spurred interest in territorial and civic censorship, a corresponding interest in imperial censorship has not developed. Interestingly, the two–old assumptions and modern revisionist histories–have conspired to moot studies of the imperial government, its policies, and its procedures, which has meant that the significance of imperial censorship in the Empire has been largely overlooked. Moreover, historians' attention to local controls and regulations has inspired a more nuanced approach to censorship than had previously prevailed, leading to a general reassessment of how censorship influenced the circulation and reception of ideas in both positive and negative ways. Imperial censorship has failed to register its mark in this regard as well. Using a combination of imperial censorship legislation, archival documents, and printed primary sources, this dissertation charts imperial censorship during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as both a concept and a practice. Unable to enforce religious uniformity in the Empire after the Reformation's successful establishment in the 1520s, imperial legislation came to rely on libel, rather than heresy, as the formal basis for its censorship policies. Libel was an ambiguous category of illicit expression, the interpretation of which depended a great deal on the contingencies of context and the subjective preferences of enforcers. This affected how imperial and local authorities, respectively, interacted on matters of censorship, requiring more negotiation and cooperation than has heretofore been appreciated.
Degree ProgramGraduate College