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People with a History: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* History Sourcebook

Section III Europe to World War I

Editor: Paul Halsall


Section III: Europe to World War I

Go to the following pages for other parts of People with a History

Chapter 10: Early Modern Europe

The great distinction between "modern" and "ancient and medieval" history lies in the quantity of available sources. In pre-modern culture we rely primarily on literary and legal sources to understand homosexuality. Both types of source are highly distorting. Although we can - with care - outline the contours of some "homosexual" subcultures in pre-modern societies, such efforts always remain tentative.

From the late fifteenth century in Europe this all changes. Large amounts of source material begins to survive, and new sorts of material at that. Most important are court records - especially when full trial records remain. So great are the survivals in some Italian cities that statistical surveys of the data are possible (for which see the work of Michael Rocke and Guido Ruggiero in the bibliography). The sources are not perfect, but now a social history is possible.

Real progress has been made for some parts of Europe - especially Italy. Other areas remain less well investigated. But debates are now flourishing about what exactly was the social "identity" of homosexually active men (there is still not enough evidence to document Lesbian subcultures until much later than for males).

At the same time, the types of "homosexual source" we have for previous societies continued to be produced. Plays and poems are less central to our conception of homosexuality in this period, but they remain important. Especially because we now have evidence about audience and styles/occasions of performance, socially significant inferences can be made. This data cannot be disgarded.


16th and 17th Century

18th Century

Texts: Legal and Historical

Texts: Literary


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Chapter 11: Nineteenth and Early Twentieth-Century Europe



Texts: Literary


  • WEB Walter Pater Page [At] [Internet Archive version here]
  • WEB Simeon Solomon Research Archive [Internet Archive version here]
    A repository of information about the nineteenth-century Anglo-Jewish artist Simeon Solomon (1840-1905), of interest in the Pre-Raphaelites studies, Jewish studies, and gender/gay/queer studies

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People with a History: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans* History Sourcebook is part of the Internet History Sourcebooks Project. Date of inception was 1997. People with a History is a www site presenting history relevant to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people, through primary sources, secondary discussions, and images. Links to files at other site are indicated by [At some indication of the site name or location]. WEB  indicates a link to one of small number of high quality web sites which provide either more texts or an especially valuable overview.

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 3 May 2024 [CV]