A History of European Sexuality
By Anna Clark
Routledge – 2009 – 286 pages
‘… the rich range of historical information that Clark weaves into her chapters… makes this ambitious overview of sex in Europe a highly accessible and successful endeavour.’ – Times Higher Education Supplement
'Provides a valuable overview of the history of sexuality in Europe since classical antiquity, synthesising as it does a mass of studies of specific regions and periods which have appeared during the last two decades.' Lesley Hall, Wellcome Library, UK
Desire: A History of European Sexuality is a sweeping survey of sexuality in Europe from the Greeks to the present day. It traces two concepts of sexual desire that have competed in European history: desire as dangerous, polluting, and disorderly; and desire as creative, transcendent, even revolutionary. This book follows these changing attitudes toward sexuality through the major turning points of European history.
Written in a lively and engaging style, the book contains many fascinating anecdotes drawing on a rich array of sources including poetry, novels, pornography and film as well as court records, autobiographies and personal letters. While Anna Clark builds on the work of dozens of historians, she also takes a fresh approach and introduces the concepts of twilight moments and sexual economies. Desire integrates the history of heterosexuality with same-sex desire, and focuses on the emotions of love as well as the passions of lust, the politics of sex as well as the personal experiences.
‘… the rich range of historical information that Clark weaves into her chapters, from state legislation, court records and details of available contraception or abortion techniques, to personal memoir, jokes and pornography, makes this ambitious overview of sex in Europe a highly accessible and successful endeavour.’
– Times Higher Education Supplement
'Provides a valuable overview of the history of sexuality in Europe since classical antiquity, synthesising as it does a mass of studies of specific regions and periods which have appeared during the last two decades.'
– Lesley Hall, Wellcome Library, UK
'Going where most historians would not dare, Desire collapses boundaries between national histories, focused chronologies, and narrow case studies–synthesizing, reflecting, and ultimately producing a groundbreaking intervention in the history of sexuality. It is a mark of Clark's scholarship that she integrates notoriously difficult theory into an absorbing narrative that will engage academics, undergraduates, and general readers. … As a modern historian, it is humbling to be confronted with this kind of breadth and forced to rethink conventional assumptions about modernity, desire, and selfhood. Our students will find Desire an invaluable introduction to the field; we should take it as a challenge to think very carefully about the ways we write histories of sexuality and take that field forward.'
– Matt Houlbrook, Magdalen College, Oxford, UK, Victorian Studies
'Clark provides an overview that will [be] eminently useful as a bridge between scholarship and teaching. Her textbook distills much of the work done on the topic to create a valuable introduction to the field.' – Lisa Z. Sigel, DePaul University, USA, Journal of Social History
1. Introduction: Sex and the Problem of Western Civilization 2. Sex and the City: Greece and Rome 3. Divine Desire in Judaism and Early Christianity 4. Medieval Fantasies of Desire, Sacred and Profane 5. From Twilight Moments to Moral Panics: The Regulation of Sex from the Thirteenth Century to the Sixteenth Century 6. The Age of Exploration: Sexual Contact and Culture Clash in Spain and Colonial Mesoamerica 7. Enlightening Desire: New Attitudes toward Sexuality in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries 8. In the Victorian Twilight: Illegitimacy, Sexual Commerce, and Same-Sex Desire, 1750-1870 9. Boundaries of the Nation, Boundaries of the Self: 1860-1914 10. Managing Desire or Consuming Sex in Interwar Culture 11. Sex and the State in the 1930s: Sweden, the Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany 12. The Reconstruction of Desire and Sexual Consumerism in Postwar Europe
Anna Clark is the author of Women’s Silence, Men’s Violence: Sexual Assault in England, 1770-1845 (1987), The Struggle for the Breeches: Gender and the Making of the British Working Class (1995), and Scandal: The Sexual Politics of the British Constitution (2003). She is a professor at the University of Minnesota.