In recent months, there has been a considerable effort to banish conservative ideas from our bookshelves and screens.
As reported by the Daily Wire, “Amazon has ramped up its censorship on conservative views in recent weeks,” with their streaming service banning “a popular documentary on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas,” and the removal of “conservative Ryan Anderson’s book critical of gender theory, ‘When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Movement.’”
Under pressure from the Left, Dr. Seuss Enterprises ceased the sale of books which “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” saying that “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”
In addition to targeting corporations to achieve such levels of censorship, activists have also pressured individual book stores to bend to their will, such as the Portland mob who demanded that Andy Ngo’s “Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy” be removed from their shelves.
There are few acts of censorship as overt as a mob deciding which books people should be allowed to read. Ladies and gentlemen, antifa. https://t.co/pNdQKIw7SY
— Robby Soave (@robbysoave) January 12, 2021
While in a different form, such open censorship of written and spoken ideas is little more than a high-tech book burning event, with certain views being erased from society’s consciousness by a tyrannical movement.
Here is a brief overview of just some of the times in history when book burning strategies were employed to control the information and ideas in a society.
King Jehoiakim of Judah (7th century BCE)
In Jeremiah Chapter 36 (verses 22 to 29), King Jehoiakim of Judah burns part of a scroll written by Baruch ben Neriah transcribing the words of Jeremiah.
It was the ninth month and the king was sitting in the winter apartment, with a fire burning in the firepot in front of him.
Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire.
The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.”
Even though Elnathan, Delaiah and Gemariah urged the king not to burn the scroll, he would not listen to them.
Instead, the king commanded Jerahmeel, a son of the king, Seraiah son of Azriel and Shelemiah son of Abdeel to arrest Baruch the scribe and Jeremiah the prophet. But the LORD had hidden them.
After the king burned the scroll containing the words that Baruch had written at Jeremiah’s dictation, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:
“Take another scroll and write on it all the words that were on the first scroll, which Jehoiakim king of Judah burned up.
Also tell Jehoiakim king of Judah, This is what the LORD says: You burned that scroll and said, “Why did you write on it that the king of Babylon would certainly come and destroy this land and cut off both men and animals from it?”
China (210 – 213 BCE)
The first emperor of the Qin Dynasty, Qin Shi Huang, ordered the “burning of books and burying of scholars” in 213 BCE. This involved the loss of philosophical treatises of the Hundred Schools of Thought, with only treatises which aligned with the regime’s ideology permitted to survive.
It is also thought by some historians that the emperor ordered the live burial of 460 Confucian scholars three years later.
Roman emperor Constantine the Great issued an edict against nontrinitarian Arians, which included the instruction to burn any “writing composed by Arius,” a theologian who opposed the unified Christianity sought by the Roman Empire.
“In addition, if any writing composed by Arius should be found, it should be handed over to the flames, so that not only will the wickedness of his teaching be obliterated, but nothing will be left even to remind anyone of him. And I hereby make a public order, that if someone should be discovered to have hidden a writing composed by Arius, and not to have immediately brought it forward and destroyed it by fire, his penalty shall be death. As soon as he is discovered in this offense, he shall be submitted for capital punishment…”
According to the historian Elaine Pagels, “In AD 367, Athanasius, the zealous bishop of Alexandria… issued an Easter letter in which he demanded that Egyptian monks destroy all such unacceptable writings, except for those he specifically listed as ‘acceptable’ even ‘canonical’—a list that constitutes the present ‘New Testament.’”
Cyril of Alexandria
Shortly after 435 CE, Cyril of Alexandria burned almost all the written work of Nestorius, the Christian theologian and Archbishop of Constantinople from 428 to 431.
Recared, King of the Visigoths
Recared, King of the Visigoths and first Catholic king of Spain, ordered the collection and destruction of all Arian books, in addition to the burning of homes in which they were collected, according to the Chronicle of Fredegar. Recared converted to Catholicism in 587.
Disputation of Paris
Following the Disputation of Paris, also known as the Trial of the Talmud, twenty-four carriage loads of Talmuds and other Jewish religious texts were burned by French officials in Paris in 1244.
In addition to widespread religious persecution, the Spanish Inquisition resulted in the burning of Hebrew Bibles and other Jewish manuscripts in 1490, and 5,000 Arabic manuscripts in Granada in 1499.
Aztecs and Mayans
During the conquest of the Americas and its aftermath, most of the books written by the Aztecs were destroyed by the Conquistadors and the Catholic priests. Bishop Diego de Landa ordered the books in Yucatán to be destroyed in July 1562, writing “We found a large number of books in these characters and, as they contained nothing in which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they (the Maya) regretted to an amazing degree, and which caused them much affliction.”
In the years prior, after the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, they also destroyed many Mayan books and manuscripts.
Tudor and Stuart England
In his 2005 article titled “Book Burning in Tudor and Stuart England,” David Cressy described the widespread occurrence of book burnings as the battle between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church grew ever more violent.
“Over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries book burning developed from a rare to an occasional occurrence, relocated from an outdoor to an indoor procedure, and changed from a bureaucratic to a quasi-theatrical performance.”
US Library of Congress
In 1814, British forces used 3,000 books from the Library of Congress to burn down the US Capitol during the Burning of Washington.
Book burnings by the Nazis were part of a campaign conducted by the German Student Union, which targeted all written work viewed as subversive or opposing Nazism. Such books included works by Jewish writers, and the first books burned were those of Karl Marx and Karl Kautsky.
In 1933, tens of thousands of Germans congregated in Berlin to witness the burning of over 25,000 books deemed to be “un-German.”
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.