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Post Offices of Europe 18th – 21st Century

A Comparative History


Edited By Muriel Le Roux and Sébastien Richez

The cursus publicus, established by the Roman Empire to connect all its conquered territories, may be considered to be the ancestor of all modern post offices. Therefore, mail service networks are part of an organization, dating from Antiquity, which is common to the entire European community.
From the 18 th century onwards, the French mail service network may be divided into three successive phases. First, the consolidation of the transportation system that was being set up. Second, the development of the system’s ability to deal with increasing traffic (through broader human resources). Thirdly, the diversification of its operations and the development of its technical modernisation.
What was the situation in other European countries? Are there similarities and differences in how their networks were set up and organized? Finally, how did European Post Offices cooperate with each other in spite of their differences?
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From the Kaiser to Tony Blair. Postal Censorship in Europe: Jesús Garcia Sanchez


Postal Censorship in Europe*

Jesús Garcia SANCHEZ

Opening and reading letters without authorization or with self-granted permission is an activity as old as wars and social conflicts. Postal censorship was born in antiquity, at the same time as correspondence. In modern times, most of the European courts opened Black Cabinets for the postal control of enemies inside their borders as well as on the outside. At times, censored letters were immediately made public.1

European revolutions changed censorship. Letters were inspected “in the name of the people” and the first rubber stamps were invented to attest to the censor’s inspection. All of this changed in the 20th century. Due to wars and dictatorships, letters were opened everywhere. Although this is a broad topic, we will attempt here to give an overview of the main issues of postal control in Europe during the last 100 years. We will dedicate more space to postal censorship in France where this work is being published. Taking into account that the topic is seldom covered in history books, we will offer the widest array possible of sources and bibliography.

Those in authority use various arguments to justify the inspection of postal correspondence but, over all, the main objectives of such censorship are:

1) Avoiding the spread of military information from war fronts.

2) Obtaining information for espionage or counterespionage.

3) Knowing the state of mind of soldiers and civilians.

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