• Magnus Keil Eistrup
4. term, History, Master (Master Programme)
The freedom of speech and expression are the most essential parts of a public sphere and debate. In the last quarter of the 18th century the autocratic ruler of Denmark, Frederik VI, authorized a liberal public debate which altered how communication in the society evolved. Although it wasn’t freedom of speech ensured by law as in the time of Johann Friedrich Struensee, it was a public sphere, which appeared less restricted by the Government. The manner in which the citizens took part in the public debate and the content it produced was defined by the diversity of the interacting participants and the criticism. The increasing debate that manifested itself in the redestribution of journals, magazines, and flyers turned out to be more candid than Frederik VI could accept. It led to the ‘Legislation of the freedom of the press’ that was introduced on the 27th of September in 1799. It was applied so the Government could regain control over the chaotic literary public sphere.
This thesis examines which consequences the legislation had on the public sphere by focusing on the mentions of the Royal Family, Government, Police, and Military in the weekly magazine, Politievennen. The method of the examination was to review the entire content of the magazine in the period from 1798 to 1805, to identify how the magazine evolved and how it affected the content and its participants. Since the established research include a divergent interpretation of the consequences that this legislation had on the public sphere in the beginning of the 19th century, the findings from Politievennen will be used to further elaborate and clarify elements of the scientific debate.
The conducted analysis showed, that the legislation had a clear effect on the participants, mentions, and content in Politievennen. While some articles still contributed with critical content and expressions, it was reduced to only a few participants. The widespread critical public sphere was dissolved.
The results indicate, that several historians have presented the legislation too mildly and underestimated its preventive impact. Several participants in the public debate refrained from involvement after the legislation was manifested in 1799. Even though the emergence of the Romantic nationalism in 1800 had a clear influence on the content of Politievennen, this paper disclose that it was the legislation, which silenced the critical and polyphonic public sphere at the dawn of the 19th century.
Publication date30 May 2021
Number of pages81
ID: 413293727