Conservative Censors, Banned Books: Reading the Reports of Australia’s Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board


Australian literary history
race and sexuality studies in Australia
Matthew Arnold
James Baldwin
Marxist literary criticism


The Australian government’s strict censorship regime of the mid-twentieth century banned a range of imported books, from popular to pornographic to literary titles. Drawing on the archived censor reports of the committee, this article will argue that Australia’s Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board is best understood within a tradition of conservative thinking about literature’s social function which can be traced back to Matthew Arnold. This paper examines the banning of James Baldwin’s Another Country as an example of politically conservative anxieties about race and sexuality influencing the impetus behind the censor’s decisions. It is argued that the Australian censorship project was underwritten by an ideological notion of what literature is, and how it should serve the interests of the state. 


To cite this paper please use the following details: Gawen, N. (2019), 'Conservative Censors, Banned Books: Reading the Reports of Australia’s Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board', Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research, Volume 12, Issue 1, Date accessed [insert date]. If you cite this article or use it in any teaching or other related activities please let us know by e-mailing us at

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