In the 19th century, the reading public expanded to embrace new categories of consumers, especially of cheap fiction. These new lower class and female readers frightened liberals, Catholics and republicans alike. This study focuses on workers, women and peasants, and the ways in which their reading was constructed as a social and political problem, to analyze the fear of reading in 19th century France. The author presents a series of case studies of actual readers, to examine their choices and their practices, and to evaluate how far they responded to (or subverted) attempts at cultural domination.
MARTYN LYONS is Professor of History at the University of New South Wales. He is the author of several works on French revolutionary history and on the history of the book and of reading practices, was co-author of Australian Readers Remember and a contributor to A History of Reading in the West.