Robert Darnton

Robert Darnton

Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature

A Lecture by Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor Emeritus and University Librarian Emeritus, Harvard University
Mar 5, 2019, 4:30 PM
Library Lecture Room, Clapp Library
Free and open to the public

The difficulty with the history of censorship is that it looks so simple: It pits oppression against freedom of expression. But if one looks harder, it appears more complicated—and full of surprises. How did censors actually do their work? How did they understand it? And how did it fit into the surrounding social and political context? By studying the day-to-day operations of censors under three authoritarian regimes—Bourbon France in the 18th century, British India in the 19th century, and Communist East Germany in the 20th century—it is possible to rethink our understanding of censorship in general.

Robert Darnton taught at Princeton from 1968 until 2007, when he became the Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the University Library at Harvard. Among his honors are a MacArthur Fellowship, a National Book Critics Circle award, election to the French Legion of Honor, the National Humanities Medal, conferred by President Obama in February 2012, and the Del Duca World Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Institut de France in 2013.


For questions, please contact: Katherine Ruffin,

Sponsored by Book Studies at Wellesley, the Friends of the Library, the Newhouse Center for the Humanities, and The Andrew W. Mellon Fellows in Critical Bibliography, the French Department, and the History Department.

Image Credit:

Photo courtesy of Robert Darnton.