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Writing the History of Early Modern European Homosexuality

Calendar Thursday, 7 December 2023
Calendar 17:30-18:30

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Writing the History of Early Modern European Homosexuality

Delivered by the most outstanding academics in the UK and beyond, the British Academy’s flagship Lecture Programme showcases the very best scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. This lecture forms part of the prestigious Raleigh Lectures in History series, first established in 1919.

The last 40-odd years have seen a huge growth in the study of early modern European homosexuality. Pioneers such as Alan Bray (Homosexuality in Renaissance England, 1982) faced many difficulties, including an extreme paucity of direct evidence. But later archival work in places such as Florence and Venice revealed a whole world of ‘sodomitical’ behaviour, different in many ways from modern homosexuality: it was strictly age-differentiated, and generally ‘acts-based’, not involving a distinctive identity.

Thanks in part to the influence of Foucault, scholars treated this pattern as universal in Europe before 1700. They then struggled to explain the existence, well documented after that date, of a very different pattern in Northern Europe, involving adult-adult relations and signs of collective identity. The result was a hugely unsatisfactory historical claim: that modern homosexuality just emerged, very suddenly and quite inexplicably, in the early 18th century.

This lecture presents an original solution to the problem, thereby making it possible to give, for the first time, a coherent account of the long-term development of what we now call homosexuality.

  • Free, booking required
  • Registration opens at 17:00, with the lecture starting at 17:30
  • This event includes a reception for attendees after the lecture at 18:45
  • The event will be delivered in the medium of English. You are welcome to ask questions in the medium of Welsh as part of the Q&A session, and simultaneous translation will be available for this.
  • Live captioning in English will be available for this lecture

Speaker: Sir Noel Malcolm FBA, Senior Research Fellow, University of Oxford

Noel Malcolm studied History and English Literature at Peterhouse, Cambridge. He began his career as a Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge; he was then political columnist and, subsequently, Foreign Editor of the Spectator. In 1999 he was a lecturer at Harvard; he gave the Carlyle Lectures at Oxford in 2001. Since 2002 he has been a Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, and at Cambridge an Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse, Trinity, and Gonville and Caius. He has published on a range of topics, from the history of philosophy (with a special interest in Thomas Hobbes) to the history of the Balkans, and the history of relations between early modern Europe and the Islamic world. He was knighted in 2014 for services to scholarship, journalism, and European history.

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