This book examines changing perceptions of sex between men in early Victorian Britain, a significant yet surprisingly little explored period in the history of Western sexuality. Looking at the dramatic transformations of the era—changes in the family and in the law, the emergence of the world's first police force, the growth of a national media, and more—Charles Upchurch asks how perceptions of same-sex desire changed between men, in families, and in the larger society. To illuminate these questions, he mines a rich trove of previously unexamined sources, including hundreds of articles pertaining to sex between men that appeared in mainstream newspapers. The first book to relate this topic to broader economic, social, and political changes in the early nineteenth century, Before Wilde sheds new light on the central question of how and when sex acts became identities.
List of Tables
PART ONE. UNDERSTANDINGS
1. Families and Sex between Men
2. Class, Masculinity, and Spaces
PART TWO. EARLY NINETEENTH-CENTURY CHANGES
3. Law and Reform in the 1820s
4. Public Men: The Metropolitan Police
5. Unnatural-Assault Reporting in the London Press
PART THREE. IMPLICATIONS
6. Patterns within the Changes
7. Conclusion: Character and Medicine
Charles Upchurch is Associate Professor of History at Florida State University.
"This is a work of great originality that fills a huge gap in the history of homosexuality."—George Robb, author of British Culture and the First World War
"This book fills an aching gap in the history of male homosexuality in Britain, the mid-years of the nineteenth century. Charles Upchurch shows the importance of this period in foreshadowing what was to come in the greater dramas of the late century, signaled by Wilde's disastrous fall. But more than this, the book refuses to see homosexuality as a thing apart. Its history is firmly located in a dense history of families, communities, rapid change, new forms of policing, and social reform. The result is a compelling account that illuminates dark corners, and throws new light on the familiar. It is a major contribution to our understanding of sex between men in a period of dramatic change."—Jeffrey Weeks, author of The World We Have Won: The Remaking of Erotic and Intimate Life