Chapter

Introduction

Charles Upchurch

in Before Wilde

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780520258532
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520943582 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520258532.003.0001
Introduction

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This chapter explores how sex between men was understood in Britain in the first half of the nineteenth century. It does so by examining hundreds of public reports, many from newspaper and courtroom accounts, of sex between men in the years 1820 to 1870. Analysis of these narratives calls into question key elements of earlier scholarship on how these acts (real or alleged) were understood and discussed in early-nineteenth-century Britain. It has long been assumed that the discussion of sex between men in the public sphere in mid-nineteenth-century Britain was minimal. A shift in public morals beginning in the late eighteenth century had severely limited official documentation of this behavior and its legal repercussions, as the state curtailed its record-keeping of trials involving sexual crimes. Overt and even oblique references to sex between men also disappeared from literature and popular writing.

Keywords: sex; men; Britain; public; morals; behavior; sexual crimes

Chapter.  7042 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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