The University of Southampton

HIST3212 The Long Sexual Revolution: Family Life in Twentieth Century Europe Part 1

Module Overview

Twentieth century Europe saw deep and far reaching transformations in the history of sexuality and love, gender relations and marriage. While this might seem on the surface to be a straightforward history of progress and increasing personal liberation, this module will show how such developments were equally beset by anxiety, uncertainty and reaction. Totalitarian regimes attempted to shape the bodies and emotions of their people as part of their projects to mould men and women to their political projects, while both religious authorities and democratic societies were often preoccupied with the sexual morality of their citizens, particularly in times of social change. Paradoxically while sexuality, love and relationships came to be seen increasingly as matters of private rather than family or community concern over the course of the century, they also became of greater public and state interest. This module will investigate the history of sexuality and its associated emotions in twentieth century western and southern Europe. It will examine how love and sexuality have intersected with European politics, society and culture over the course of the last century, as the human body and its emotions have both shaped and been shaped by much broader developments in history.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• Explore a variety of approaches to the history of sexuality and the emotions, as they apply to early and mid-twentieth century Europe. • Examine the history of love and sexuality in twentieth century Europe as it intersects with cultural, social and political developments in history from the impact of World War I, new ideas about sexuality and contraception in communist and democratic society, and how dictatorship attempted to shape sexuality. • Explore the history of love and sexuality from a variety of thematic perspectives, including the public/private dichotomy, the relationship between the individual and the state and the impact of war. • Contrast and compare developments, debates and public concerns about sexuality and changing gender relationships across regions and nations as well as across time. • Prompt reflection and debate about how such personal attributes as human sexuality, emotions and the body can become much broader social concerns, shaping and in turn being shaped by broader historical developments.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • The different approaches to the modern history of sexuality and the emotions.
  • Debates about the history of love and sexuality and how they intersected with broader political, social and cultural developments in European history from the early twentieth century to the end of World War II.
  • The different sources that can be used to examine the history of emotions and sexuality, from political documents and mass media source, diaries, memoirs and letters to film, fiction and documentary and advice manuals.
  • How and why sexuality and love have become matters of public concern at various different points and for different reasons in the course of the twentieth century.
  • How the history of private life, individuals and families could shape and be shaped by political and social events at national and international level.
  • The latest research on the history of love and sexuality in early and mid-twentieth century Europe.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explain and discuss the different approaches to the history of sexuality and love and how these can be applied to twentieth century Europe.
  • Analyse and discuss a wide variety of primary sources that can be used to approach the history of sexuality and the emotions
  • Critically evaluate and discuss how different historical themes such as the impact of war and dictatorship intersect with the history of sexuality and the emotions.
  • Evaluate critically the different ways in which historians of twentieth century Europe have approached these thematic and methodological issues.
  • Be able to make connections and draw contrasts across time and space in terms of experiences, reactions and approaches to sexuality and emotions in twentieth century European history.
  • Explain and defend your own views on debates and key developments in the history of sexuality and the emotions in early and mid-twentieth century Europe.


In the first part of this two-part module, you will examine the history of love and sexuality in Europe from the turn of the century to the end of the Second World War. The primary focus will be on western and southern Europe and national case studies will usually foreground each theme. As such it will cover subjects such as the debates surrounding urbanisation, morality, prostitution and disease from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century, World War I and its impact on gender relations and sexuality, and early campaigners such as Magnus Hirschfield and Marie Stopes and their new approaches to family, sexuality and contraception. We will then move on to consider inter-war anxieties about declining birth rates in Western Europe particularly in relation to France, and how totalitarian regimes in Italy and Germany attempted to shape the sexual self. The final sessions will examine the impact of World War II, when families, relationships, gender relations and sexuality suffered enormous upheaval as the result of military conflict. Seminar topics may include: Approaches to the history of emotions and sexuality Prostitution: Morality, disease and the double standard World War I: Violence, masculinity and changing mores The first sexual revolution? Campaigning for sexual reform in inter-war Europe Marie Stopes: Birth control and the changing family The ‘new woman’: Emancipation, anxiety and pro-natalism in inter-war France Homosexuality in Western Europe: Spaces of pleasure in Weimar Berlin Motherhood and militarism: Fascist sexualities Purifying sexuality in Nazi Germany Religion and modernization I: Family politics in the Turkish Republic Religion and modernization II: Sexuality, anarchism and Republican Spain War and sexual violence I: Gender, ‘collaboration’ and retribution 1939-45 War and sexual violence II: Allied liberations and occupations in Italy and France, 1943-45 The impact of war I: Rebuilding marriage and family after 1945 The impact of war II: Social disorder, divorce and abortion

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods are centred around seminars which will introduce key developments and concepts. Teaching will focus above all on sustained in-class engagement with both primary and secondary sources. Learning activities include: • Preparatory reading before each seminar • Participation in group and seminar discussion of secondary sources • Preparing and delivering short oral presentations • Individual and group activities, usually focused on analysis and discussion of a variety of different primary sources, both textual and audio-visual. Seminars will provide you will general knowledge and understanding of key concepts, developments and historical approaches, consolidated by their preparatory reading which will be necessary in order to participate fully in class discussions. Discussion in seminars will help you both to understand and evaluate the different historical approaches to a topic and to develop your own ideas. Group in-class activities will enable you to develop your skills in analysing and evaluating a wide range of primary sources. Both group activities (usually focused around primary sources) and class discussions will allow you to further develop your own ideas about the theme and topics and to formulate historical arguments.

Preparation for scheduled sessions152
Follow-up work
Wider reading or practice30
Completion of assessment task40
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Brian D. Bunk (2007). Ghosts of Passion: Martyrdom, Gender, and the Origins of the Spanish Civil War. 

Robert Beachy (2010). The German Invention of Homosexuality. The Journal of Modern History. ,82 , pp. 801-38.

Gert Hemka (ed.) (2014). A Cultural History of Sexuality in the Modern Age. 

Alan Duben and Cem Behar (2002). Istanbul Households: Marriage, Family and Fertility, 1880-1940. 

Lisa Pine (1999). Nazi Family Policy 1933-1945. 

Robert Beachy (2014). Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity. 

Paul Ginsborg (2014). Family Politics: Domestic Life, Devastation and Survival, 1900-1950. 

Dagmar Herzog (2011). Sexuality in Europe: A Twentieth Century History. 

Richard Stites (1978). The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism and Bolshevism, 1860-1930. 

Judith Walkowitz (1992). City of Dreadful Delight: Narratives of Sexual Danger in Late Victorian London. 

Kate Fisher (2006). Birth Control, Sex and Marriage in Britain, 1918-1960. 

Aurora Morcillo (2000). True Catholic womanhood: Gender and ideology in Franco’s Spain. 

Victoria De Grazia (1993). How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy 1922-1945. 

Lorenzo Benadusi (2012). The Enemy of the New Man: Homosexuality in Fascist Italy. 

Mary Louise Roberts (2013). What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France. 

Hester Donald Jenkins (2004). Behind Turkish Lattices: The Story of a Turkish Woman's Life. 

Mary Gibson (1986). Prostitution and the State in Italy, 1860-1915. 

Luisa Passerini (1987). Fascism in Popular Memory: The Cultural Experience of the Turin Working Class. 

Anette Warring (2006). Intimate and sexual relations. Surviving Hitler and Mussolini: Daily Life in Occupied Europe. ,0 , pp. 88-198.

Hester Vaizey (2010). Surviving Hitler's War: Family Life in Germany, 1939-48. 

Franz X. Eder, Lesley Hall and Gert Hemka (1999). Sexual Cultures in Europe: Themes in Sexuality, Vol. 2. 

Ayse Saracgil (2013). The failures of modernity: family, civil society and state in the passage from Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic. The Golden Chain: Family, Civil Society and the State. ,0 , pp. 197-218.

Victoria Harris (2010). Selling Sex in the Reich: Prostitutes in German Society 1914-1945. 

Dagmar Herzog (2008). Brutality and Desire: War and Sexuality in Europe’s Twentieth Century. 

Judith Surkis (2006). Sexing the Citizen: Morality and Masculinity in France, 1870–1920. 

Richard Bessel and Dirk Schumann (eds.) (2003). Life after Death: Approaches to a Cultural and Social History of Europe During the 1940s and 1950s. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 50%
Exam 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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