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The Edict of Religion, A Comedy, and The Story and Diary of My Imprisonment
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The Edict of Religion, A Comedy, and The Story and Diary of My Imprisonment (Paperback)

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Wider attention to Carl Friedrich Bahrdt should revise the standard picture of eighteenth-century Germany. German writers were often reported to be apolitical. Historians often claim that the Germans developed a more radical politics in response to the French Revolution. A commonly held stereotype depicts the Germans as having no sense of humor. Bahrdt's 1788 play The Edict of Religion, a ribald work of satire that attacks the tyranny and hypocrisy of the Prussian authorities, shatters these assumptions. The Edict of Religion is chiefly important in the history of ideas because it called for religious freedom, intellectual freedom, and freedom of the press before the French Revolution focused attention on human rights. Upon its publication, however, Bahrdt confronted the quasi-military discipline of the Prussian state that he denounced. He was tried and imprisoned-but could not be silenced. In The Story and Diary of My Imprisonment, also in this volume (and, like The Edict of Religion, here in English for the first time), Bahrdt holds the authorities up to ridicule and defends himself as an innocent victim.

John Christian Laursen is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Riverside. Johan van der Zande is Visiting Scholar in History at the University of California, Berkeley.

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