On This Day
313 – The Edict of Milan, signed by Constantine the Great and co-emperor Valerius Licinius granting religious freedom throughout the Roman Empire, is posted in Nicomedia.
The Edict of Milan (Latin: Edictum Mediolanense) was the February 313 AD agreement to treat Christians benevolently within the Roman Empire. Western Roman Emperor Constantine I and Emperor Licinius, who controlled the Balkans, met in Mediolanum (modern-day Milan) and, among other things, agreed to change policies towards Christians following the Edict of Toleration issued by Emperor Galerius two years earlier in Serdica. The Edict of Milan gave Christianity a legal status, but did not make Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire; this took place under Emperor Theodosius I in 380 AD with the Edict of Thessalonica.
The document is found in Lactantius’ De Mortibus Persecutorum and in Eusebius of Caesarea’s History of the Church with marked divergences between the two. Whether or not there was a formal ‘Edict of Milan’ is debated by some.
The version found in Lactantius is not in the form of an edict. It is a letter from Licinius to the governors of the provinces in the Eastern Empire he had just conquered by defeating Maximinus later in the same year and issued in Nicomedia.
Born On This Day
1910 – Mary Whitehouse, English activist, founded the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association (d. 2001)
Constance Mary Whitehouse CBE (née Hutcheson; 13 June 1910 – 23 November 2001), known as Mary Whitehouse, was an English social activist who opposed social liberalism and the mainstream British media, both of which she accused of encouraging a more permissive society. She was the founder and first president of the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, through which she led a longstanding campaign against the BBC. A social conservative, she was disparagingly termed a reactionary by her socially liberal opponents. Her motivation derived from her traditional Christian beliefs, her aversion to the rapid social and political changes in British society of the 1960s and her work as a teacher of sex education.
Born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Whitehouse became an art teacher, at the same time becoming involved in evangelical Christian groups such as the Student Christian Movement (which became increasingly more liberal leading up to and after a 1928 split with the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship) and Moral Re-Armament. She became a public figure via the Clean-Up TV pressure group, established in 1964, in which she was the most prominent figure. The following year she founded the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association, using it as a platform to criticise the BBC for what she perceived as a lack of accountability, and excessive use of bad language and portrayals of sex and violence in its programmes. As a result, she became an object of mockery in the media.
During the 1970s she broadened her activities, and was a leading figure in the Nationwide Festival of Light, a Christian campaign that gained mass support for a period. She initiated a successful private prosecution against Gay News on the grounds of blasphemous libel, the first such case for more than 50 years. Another private prosecution was against the director of the play The Romans in Britain, which had been performed at the National Theatre.
Whitehouse’s campaigns continue to divide opinion. Her critics have accused her of being a highly censorious figure, and her traditional moral convictions brought her into direct conflict with advocates of the sexual revolution, feminism and gay rights. Others see her more positively and believe she was attempting to halt a decline in what they perceived as Britain’s moral standards. According to Ben Thompson, the editor of an anthology of Whitehouse-related letters published in 2012: “From … feminist anti-pornography campaigns to the executive naming and shaming strategies of UK Uncut, her ideological and tactical influence has been discernible in all sorts of unexpected places in recent years.”
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