Political censorship in nineteenth-century Europe can be usefully perceived as a combination of political Rorschach test and barometer, reflecting with great accuracy the fears of regimes and the general political atmosphere within each country at any particular time. As a Rorschach test, censorship registered for each ruling elite the type and degree of the fears it felt with regard to its own population. Thus, the heightened fears which most European regimes had of the ‘unwashed masses’ were reflected in censorship provisions which were particularly designed to control the availability and content of media that were especially accessible to the poor. Because many of these fears were exaggerated and irrational, the same was often true of the political censorship that sought to allay them. And, because the intensity of these fears varied from time to time and from place to place, the harshness of political censorship in different countries and periods during the nineteenth century was high variable.
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