Sexuality in World History  book cover
2nd Edition

Sexuality in World History

ISBN 9781138241732
Published February 24, 2017 by Routledge
226 Pages

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Book Description

This book examines sexuality in the past, and explores how it helps explain sexuality in the present. The subject of sexuality is often a controversial one, and exploring it through a world history perspective emphasizes the extent to which societies, including our own, are still reacting to historical change through contemporary sexual behaviors, values, and debates. The study uses a clear chronological structure to focus on major patterns and changes in sexuality—both sexual culture and sexual behaviors—in the main periods of world history, covering topics including:

• The sexual implications of the transition from hunting and gathering economies to agricultural economies;

• Sexuality in classical societies;

• The postclassical period and the spread of the world religions;

• Sex in an age of trade and colonies;

• Changes in sexual behaviors and sexual attitudes between 1750 and 1950;

• Sex in contemporary world history.

This new edition examines these issues on a global scale, with attention to anthropological insights on sexuality and their relationship to history, the dynamics between sexuality and imperialism, sexuality in industrial society, and trends and conflicts surrounding views of sex and sexuality in the contemporary world.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction: The Whys and Hows of Sex History

Chapter 2 Anthropological Findings: A Sampling

Chapter 3 Sexuality and the Rise of Agriculture

Chapter 4 Sexuality in the Classical Period

Chapter 5 The Impact of Religion on Sexuality, to 1450

Chapter 6 Sex in an Age of Trade and Colonies, 1450-1750

Chapter 7 Western Society: a first sexual revolution and the Victorian Response, 1750-1950

Chapter 8 Global Trends and Variations in the Age of Imperialism

Chapter 9 Contemporary Sexuality: Toward Liberation?

Chapter 10 Contemporary Sexuality: A Sea of Problems?

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Peter N. Stearns is University Professor of History at George Mason University. He is the author of Globalization in World History (2nd edition 2015), Childhood in World History (3rd edition 2015), Gender in World History (3rd edition 2015), Peace in World History (2014), and Human Rights in World History (2012), all in this series. Other books include A History of Shame (forthcoming), Guiding the American University: Challenges and Choices (2015), and Satisfaction Not Guaranteed: Dilemmas of Progress in Modern Society (2012).


"In Sexuality in World History, Peter Stearns fulfills his promise to make menarche as important as monarchy. Stearns, recognized as a preeminent social historian, brilliantly grounds his book in the biological and economic conditions that affect sexual expression across civilizations. Written as a complement to more traditional world histories, this volume is one that students will actually read!"

Lisa Z. Sigel, Professor of History at DePaul University.

"Sexuality in World History manages the almost impossible task of providing a sweeping, comprehensive, convincing narrative of the history of the generally unruly subject of sex. Moving adroitly throughout the globe, it tracks the changes in sexuality from agricultural societies to the great classical civilizations, watching developments as the large religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam emerge, and following the effects of colonialism, imperialism, and globalization. Sexuality in World History provides an excellent overarching introduction and offers a rich supply of additional reading for further research."

Robert Tobin, Henry J. Leir Chair at Clark University.

A wide-ranging overview of sexual practices that contextualizes the evolution of cultural controls and regional differences in the organization of marriage and the family within the wider arena of alternative opportunities for erotic experience. The attention to the role played by religious, political and economic factors with regard to shifts in social conventions provides a pertinent lens through which to view contemporary debates on gender and sexuality.

Sara F. Matthews-Grieco, Professor of History and Women's and Gender Studies at Syracuse University, Florence.