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Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the 19th Century (Social and Cultural History Today) Hardcover – 23 May 2003


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: I.B.Tauris (23 May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860648908
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860648908
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 2.6 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 146,689 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

'Nameless Offences is a cogently argued and well-written book which contributes importantly to our understanding of the history of the legal regulation of sexual behavior between men in the 19th century...I cannot do justice...to the richness of his historical narrative...[he] has found gems of narrative detail...and woven them into a persuasive analysis.' - Morris B. Kaplan, Associate Professor of Philosophy, State University of New York 'The mainspring of the work is the determined endeavour to explode the idea that homosexuality was silenced throughout the nineteenth century... Well-written, the book makes good reading. Most of all, it offers a lively panorama of Victorian society, seen from a refreshingly new perspective that will contribute to the impetus of Masculinities Studies.' -Gilbert Pham-Thanh, Cercles (France) January 2005 'English Literature in Transition' journal (US based). Review by Roger Luckhurst (Birkbeck College): "Cocks brings a sophisticated, critical awareness to this empirical work" "The book offers extremely valuable evidence and certainly challenged me to revise my understanding of homosexual identity in the study of the fin de siecle." "clearly breaks new ground...a lot of spark"

About the Author

Dr Harry Cocks is Research Fellow at the Department of History, University of Manchester.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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The 'unspeakable' quality of homosexual desire in nineteenth-century England has become a familiar presence in historical writing and literary criticism. Read the first page
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Derek Peanut on 18 Nov 2003
Format: Hardcover
A scholarly and subtle book. Essential reading for any students of the history of sexuality. The book is about the closet, and where it came from. The wonderfully-named Mr Cocks (surely he, Colin Cruise and the German scholar Helmut Puff should form some sort of Queer Historians' Club?) argues that although male homosexuality/sodomy has been the unnameable crime since Biblical times, the problem of naming it only really became critical in England at the beginning of the 19th century. Then, a massive increase in prosecutions for (male) homosexual offences meant that this "nameless offence" was constantly talked about. The closet-that paradoxical modern formation in which homosexuality is both seen and unseen, talked about but secret-was therefore an attempt by ruling elites to marginalize discussion of same sex desire from the public realm. The beginning describes the nature of the law and policing, and although rather dense, shows conclusively that the purpose of the criminal law and the police was to try and marginalize same sex desire in general, to stop people talking about it, rather than to persecute an identifiable group of "gay" men. In fact, one of the good things about this book is that it shows that homosexuality was not confined to a subculture but was everywhere in ordinary life. Most of those prosecuted were nothing to do with "molly houses"-the 19th century equivalent of gay bars, as Cocks shows with evidence taken from ordinary people who slept in the same bed or met each other on the street. Because talking about homosexuality might make people do it (yes, that's what they really thought), the Georgians and Victorians tried to silence it.Read more ›
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. H. Owen on 24 Feb 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book only truly comes to life when looking at definite cases of crimes. You can then relate the law to real people, and judge how it affected them.
However, to get to the 'social' history, you have to wade through pages & pages of statistics, graphs and theories. This makes it a dry, tough read.
I note the book began life as the basis of a degree thesis, sadly, it should have gone no further.
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Amazon.com: 1 review
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The closet: not so bad? 6 Jun 2003
By derek peanut - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A scholarly and subtle book. Essential reading for any students of the history of sexuality. The book is about the closet, and where it came from. The wonderfully-named Mr Cocks (surely he, Colin Cruise and the German scholar Helmut Puff should form some sort of Queer Historians' Club?) argues that although male homosexuality/sodomy has been the unnameable crime since Biblical times, the problem of naming it only really became critical in England at the beginning of the 19th century. Then, a massive increase in prosecutions for (male) homosexual offences meant that this "nameless offence" was constantly talked about. The closet-that paradoxical modern formation in which homosexuality is both seen and unseen, talked about but secret-was therefore an attempt by ruling elites to marginalize discussion of same sex desire from the public realm. The beginning describes the nature of the law and policing, and although rather dense, shows conclusively that the purpose of the criminal law and the police was to try and marginalize same sex desire in general, to stop people talking about it, rather than to persecute an identifiable group of "gay" men. In fact, one of the good things about this book is that it shows that homosexuality was not confined to a subculture but was everywhere in ordinary life. Most of those prosecuted were nothing to do with "molly houses"-the 19th century equivalent of gay bars, as Cocks shows with evidence taken from ordinary peopel who slept in the same bed or met each other on the street. Because talking about homosexuality might make people do it (yes, that's what they really thought), the Georgians and Victorians tried to silence it. The book therefore shows that the closet was not the result of supposed hidden nature of homosexuality (it seemed to be everywhere), but was the result of a specific historical moment in which same sex desire had to be prevented partly by not discussing it. The rest of the chapters further map out how civil society was formed through the exclusion of same sex desire. Firstly, the "sodomite" was inveted as someone who was invisible or "in disguise" in the Victorian city, partly because people feared complicity in his "crimes." Then, the courts always worked to the advantage of the wealthy, and finally, the blackmailer was rigidly criminalized, again to the benefit of the rich and influential. The final part deals with a strange group of men in late Victorian Bolton, Lancs, who loved each other dearly, but in a spiritual, not a physical way. The book is trying to say that even at the level of personal attachment, homosexuality remained unnameable in the same way that it did in the paper. However, Cocks claims, paradoxically, that the closet was therefore in some way liberating of these apparently unnameable desires. Not sure everyone would agree with that. There is some fascinating stuff here. A dense and detailed book, but well worth the effort.
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