Book Details
Mandatory Fields
Etienne, Anne; Thomas, David; Carlton, David;
Theatre Censorship: From Walpole to Wilson
Oxford University Press
Optional Fields
Lord Chamberlain playwrights Royal Prerogative statute law Parliament Home Office politics of inertia Prime Minister covert censorship
Using previously unpublished material from the National Archives, this book offers a new perspective on British cultural history. Statutory theatre censorship was first introduced in Britain by Sir Robert Walpole with his Licensing Act of 1737. Previously, theatre censorship was exercised under the Royal Prerogative. Walpole's action in giving the Lord Chamberlain statutory powers of theatre censorship had the unforeseen consequence that confusion over the relationship between the Royal Prerogative and statute law would prevent any serious challenge to theatre censorship in Parliament until the 20th century. Sections outlining the political history of key periods explain why theatre censorship legislation was introduced in 1737; why attempts to reform the legislation failed in 1832, 1909, and 1949; and finally succeeded in 1968. In 1909, despite a vigorous campaign by playwrights and politicians, opposition from Edward VII helped to prevent the abolition of theatre censorship. Thereafter, resistance to change and obfuscation on the part of Home Office officials undermined attempts to abolish theatre censorship legislation until 1968. There was also strong support for theatre censorship on the part of commercial theatre managers who saw censorship as offering protection from vexatious prosecution. In 1968, although there was opposition from Elizabeth II, Lord Cobbold (her Lord Chamberlain) and Harold Wilson (her Prime Minister), the combined pressure of playwrights, directors, critics, audiences, and politicians (notably Roy Jenkins) ensured that theatre censorship was finally abolished. The book concludes by exploring whether new forms of covert censorship have replaced the statutory theatre censorship abolished with the 1968 Theatres Act.
Grant Details
Leverhulme Trust