Course:History 344 Nasty Families/The First English Civil War/ Royalist Censorship

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The Politics of the press and censorship played a main role in the English Civil War. For the Royalists, the printing of pamphlets and other publications was meant to counter demoralized feelings on the Royalist side in order to encourage resilience to the Parliamentarians[1]. However, the Parliamentarian cause rested on the noble cause of the "Protestant Crusade" and great effort was put into suppressing and punishing Royalist publications in order to see this through[2].

On September 3, 1647 the House of Commons ordered three MP's to prepare an Ordinance to empower the Committee of Militia of London to suppress, by any means necessary, the Royalist Press[3]. Lord General Fairfax was very vocal during the time that the Ordinance was passing through the Houses, and wrote many letters speaking out against the sheer volume of unlicensed printing that could be very harmful to the Parliamentarian cause.[4] These letters helped to push the Ordinance through the House of Lords, and it was finally passed on September 28, 1647.[5]

This Ordinance was to punish all authors, printers, and preachers of publications unlicensed by both Houses of Parliament. Authors of unlicensed works were liable to a fine of forty shillings or forty days imprisonment.[6] Printers were liable for twenty shillings or twenty days imprisonment as well as the confiscation and destruction of their printing presses. [7] Finally, Ballad-singers and other preachers of Royalist propaganda were whipped in the town square.[8]

The Stationer's Company played a central role in the detection and suppression of unlicensed printing, and were known for their brutal tactics.[9] While the Company could have theoretically been much more effective in its suppression tactics, it still took firm and decisive action against materials considered to be morally, religiously, or politically offensive.[10]

  1. Jason McElligott, Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England, (Rochester: Boydell, 2007), 63.
  2. Christopher Hill, Puritanism and Revolution, (London: Mercury Books, 1962), 144-5.
  3. McElligot, 154.
  4. Ibid, 155.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid..
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid, 199.
  10. Ibid, 203.