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A History of the Banned Books

Throughout history, clandestine brotherhoods and sisterships, fueled by the power of the written word and the unshackled expression of radical ideas, have conspired to create a legacy of outlawed literature, meticulously concealed in illicit libraries, known only to those who dare to seek its forbidden knowledge.


Books have always been a medium for spreading ideas, knowledge, and information. Throughout history, books have been banned for various reasons, from promoting radical ideas to offending religious sensibilities. In many cases, banned books have become even more popular due to the controversy surrounding them. The reasons for banning books are varied, from religious sentiments to political ideologies to obscenity. This article will explore the history of banned books, from ancient times to the present. Furthermore, I'll share with you the titles of some forbidden books. Let's embark on a journey into the covert realm of banned literature within the library of Hogwarts.


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Ancient Times to the Middle Ages

Censorship of literature dates to ancient times. In ancient Rome, the government banned certain books, such as those containing political criticisms or discussing topics deemed immoral. During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church became the primary authority responsible for censoring books. The church banned books that it considered heretical or blasphemous, such as the works of philosopher Baruch Spinoza and scientist Galileo Galilei.


During the Inquisition, the Catholic Church established a list of banned books known as the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Prohibited Books). The index contained a wide range of works, including those promoting Protestantism, Judaism, and even certain versions of the Bible. The index was in use until 1966 when Pope Paul VI abolished it.



Pre-Indian Independence Era

During the British Raj, books that challenged colonial rule were banned. For example, Mahatma Gandhi's "Hind Swaraj" was banned in 1910. The book, written in Gujarati, was a scathing critique of British colonialism and advocated for India's independence. The British authorities feared that the book would incite anti-colonial sentiments among Indians.


In 1929, another book that challenged British rule, "Rangila Rasul," was published in Lahore. The book was a derogatory and insulting portrayal of Prophet Mohammed, which led to widespread protests by Muslims. The book was banned by the British authorities, and the publisher was subsequently assassinated by a Muslim fanatic.


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Enlightenment Era

The Enlightenment Era saw the emergence of new ideas and perspectives that challenged the traditional beliefs and institutions of society. As a result, many works of literature were banned or censored during this time. One of the most famous examples is Voltaire's "Candide," which was banned in France for its satirical critique of the Church and the aristocracy. Similarly, the English government banned John Milton's "Paradise Lost" for its portrayal of Satan as a sympathetic character.


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Religious Indian Controversies

Religious sentiments have also been a major reason for banning books in India. In 1989, the book "Lajja" by Taslima Nasreen was banned. The book was a fictional account of the persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh after the Babri Masjid demolition in India. The book was deemed to be insulting to Islam, and the author received death threats from fundamentalist groups.

In 2015, the Indian government banned "The Hindus: An Alternative History" by Wendy Doniger. The book was a scholarly work that challenged traditional Hindu beliefs and practices. The book was deemed to be insulting to Hinduism, and the author was accused of distorting historical facts.


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The 19th Century

In the 19th century, books continued to be banned for various reasons, including their political, social, or sexual content. In the United States, Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was banned in several Southern states for its anti-slavery message. Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was banned in many schools for its use of racial slurs and portrayal of slavery.


In Europe, many books were banned for their radical political ideas. Friedrich Nietzsche's "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" was banned in Germany for its critiques of Christianity and traditional morality. Karl Marx's "Das Kapital" was banned in many countries for promoting communism.


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The 20th Century

The 20th century saw the rise of totalitarian regimes, which often used censorship to control the population. Nazi Germany burned books that were deemed "un-German," including those by Jewish authors and those promoting democracy or pacifism. Similarly, the Soviet Union banned many works of literature that were considered politically subversive, including those by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and George Orwell.


In the United States, the 1950s saw a wave of censorship in response to the perceived threat of communism. Many books were banned or burned for their alleged communist or subversive content, including Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" and Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451."



Modern Times

In modern times, books are still banned for a variety of reasons. In many countries, censorship is used to control political dissent or to maintain religious orthodoxy. In Saudi Arabia, for example, books promoting democracy or critical of the monarchy are banned. In Iran, books promoting homosexuality or feminism are banned.


In the United States, books are still occasionally banned in schools or libraries for their content. The Harry Potter series, for example, has been banned in some schools for its portrayal of witchcraft and wizardry. The young adult novel "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie has been banned in several schools for its sexual content and profanity.


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Post-Independence Era

After India gained independence in 1947, the government began to ban books for various reasons. One of the earliest books to be banned was "Nine Hours to Rama" by Stanley Wolpert. The book was a fictional account of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and portrayed the assassin, Nathuram Godse, in a sympathetic light. The book was banned in 1962 because it was deemed to be promoting hatred and enmity between different communities.

In 1964, another book that was banned was "A Satanic Verses" by Salman Rushdie. The book was a fictional account of the life of Prophet Mohammed and contained passages that were deemed to be insulting to Islam. The book led to widespread protests in India and other parts of the Muslim world. The Indian government banned the book in 1988, citing public order and national security concerns.


In the 1970s and 1980s, the Indian government banned several books that were critical of the ruling party and its leaders. One of the most well-known books to be banned was "The Polyester Prince" by Hamish McDonald. The book was a critical account of the life of Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of Reliance Industries. The book was banned in 1998, but the ban was later lifted.


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Censorship and Obscenity

The Indian government has also banned books that are deemed to be obscene or vulgar. In 1954, the government banned "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D.H. Lawrence. The book was deemed to be pornographic and contained explicit sexual content. The ban was lifted in 1960, but the book continued to face censorship challenges from conservative groups.

In 2000, the book "Such a Long Journey" by Rohinton Mistry was banned in Mumbai. The book was a critically acclaimed work of fiction that dealt with the social and political realities of India.


A history of banned books imperium publication europe america and india banned books of the world ancient modern 20th century 19th century post independence pre independence censorship and obscurity of banned books enlightment era banned books

In conclusion, the history of banned Indian books is a complex and controversial one, spanning decades of political and social upheaval. From the colonial era to the present day, governments and other institutions have sought to censor books that they deemed to be subversive or offensive, leading to clashes with authors, publishers, and free speech advocates.


While some bans have been lifted over time, many controversial books remain forbidden in India, highlighting ongoing debates about the limits of free expression and the role of censorship in a democratic society. Ultimately, the history of banned Indian books reminds us of the power of literature to challenge authority, provoke debate, and push boundaries, even in the face of repression and censorship.



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