Til bevillingsoversigt

Trykkefriheden og en ny offentligheds tilblivelse

Monograph Fellowships


My project is about the "Press Freedom Writings" (Danish: Trykkefrihedsskrifterne). It concerns the large amount of small prints which appeared in the years 1770-73, prompted by Struensee's abolishment of censorship in Denmark. They constitute a unique case of what happens when a new media is exploited by a new generation of people expressing themselves, ranging from serious debate and political criticism over satire to slander, libel, and obscenities, often in surprising mixtures. The project aims at providing an analysis and overview over these writings, their origins, structure, and effects. The project will be developed with Professor Frederik Stjernfelt - who also received a Carlsberg Foundation grant - and Henrik Horstbøll, working in retirement.


The unique source collection of "Press Freedom Writings" has never been thoroughly analysed before. It is important both for historical and actual reasons. Historically, the Writings form an exceptional episode in Danish history which reverberated across Europe: what happens when all censorship is abruptly canceled. This opened the door to the intense discussions of Press Freedom that took place in Denmark 1770-1800, culminating intellectually in Michael Birckner's theory of Press Freedom in 1798, and legally in the backlash with the 1799 Press Freedom Act. More generally, the Press Freedom Writings form a restricted, local case of a more general problem: what happens when a new generation of writers exploit a new media situation that all of a sudden becomes possible?


The research will, as a first step, digitise the collection of Press Freedom Writings at the Royal Library in Copenhagen - a step also made possible with the Carlsberg Foundation grant. This makes the collection digitally searchable and will give quite new investigation possibilities (and make the collection accessible for a broader public). The aim of the research is the publication of a monograph, co-authored by the three participants, on September 14 2020, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of the abolishment of censorship. This monograph will investigate the preconditions of that event, the international connections of the writings, the themes, genres, and tropes put to use, and their constitution of a new type of public sphere in the Danish state and in the urban context of Copenhagen.


There are no immediate concerns regarding ethics of research connected to the project. The publication of a monograph aims at addressing the general public in Denmark, and we consider an ensuing English version of the book to address an international audience. The uploading of the Press Freedom Writings on a Royal Library homepage will make possible the easier accessibility of them to a wider audience. There is a large potential of dissemination in the project, partly due to the public interest in the Struensee period, but certainly also due to the actual importance of central themes in the project: the revolution of public debate culture with the introduction of new media, the introduction of new players and genres, and the advantages and costs of free speech.