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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

London's gay life over two millennia

London's gay life over two millennia
- The historian par exellence of London, and chronicler of Oscar Wilde, Ackroyd provides as full an account as can be expected for a book whose readership is presumably intended as general rather than specialist. At 250 pages, it inevitably falls into the “magpie” school of history, plucking the more colourful characters and episodes out from the archives. It’s such a rich canvas that tracing any particular line is impossible, though themes recur which remain familiar today: the association of homosexuality with the foreign, abroad (the idea that it was “brought over from France”); the different ways in which it was accepted among the ruling classes, church and court (the royal favourites like Piers Gaveston and Buckingham), as opposed to the street; and the periodic appearance of agencies of control, the likes of the Society for the Reformation of Manners or the Society for the Suppression of Vice (a fair number of whose members seem to have succumbed to the iniquities they were trying to root out).