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Imperial Germany's governing elite frequently sought to censor literature that threatened established political, social, religious, and moral norms in the name of public peace, order, and security. It claimed and exercised a prerogative to intervene in literary life that was broader than that of its Western neighbors, but still not broad enough to prevent the literary community from challenging and subverting many of the social norms the state was most determined to defend. This study is the first systematic analysis in any language of state censorship of literature and theater in imperial Germany (1871-1918). To assess the role that formal state controls played in German literary and political life during this period, it examines the intent, function, contested legal basis, institutions, and everyday operations of literary censorship as well as its effectiveness and its impact on authors, publishers, and theater directors.