The University of Southampton

HIST3213 The Long Sexual Revolution: Family Life in Twentieth Century Europe Part 2

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 examine 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 twentieth 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 late 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 II, the rise of consumer society, developments in medicine and technology, and the rise of youth cultures, counter cultures and protest movements. - Explore the rise of the companionate marriage in post-war society and the significance of romantic love in late twentieth century society and culture. - Examine and analyse how both culture and religion have shaped differing attitudes towards female sexuality, particularly in relation to honour both in southern Europe and more recently in migrant communities. - Prompt reflection and debate about how such personal attributes as human sexuality, emotions and the body can become much broader social concerns, particularly with the increasing focus on individual happiness in post-war Western society.

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 Second World War to the end of the twentieth century.
  • The different sources that can be used to examine the history of emotions and sexuality, from diaries, memoirs and manifestos to fiction and documentary and advice manuals, and for the late twentieth century in particular mass media sources such as film and magazines.
  • How sexuality and love became commercialised in Western society from the 1950s onwards with the rise of mass culture and the implications of these developments.
  • How and why ‘personal’ matters of sexuality became political in the feminist and gay rights movements from the 1970s onwards.
  • How a knowledge of the differing attitudes towards sexuality and love as shaped by politics, religion and culture over the course of the last century might enrich our understanding of these issues in the contemporary world.
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 late 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 rise of mass culture 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 late 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.


Part two of ‘Love and Sexuality in Twentieth Century Europe’ will examine the history of love and sexuality in western European society from the Second World War to the turn of the century. The main focus will be on Italy, West Germany, France, Spain and Britain. Beginning in the 1950s we will examine the rise of the companionate marriage, exploring how the new focus on marriage for love was shaped both by the war and by the rise of mass culture. We will also examine how the sexual and emotional self was shaped by politics and ideology, looking particularly at the strong communist subcultures in post-war France and Italy. In turning to the 1960s, we will examine how the Pill shaped gender and sexual relations, before turning to the fracturing of mass culture with the rise of protest cultures, counter cultures and the feminist and gay rights movements of the 1970s. In doing so we will discuss how the 1960s revolutionised sexual and gender relations, as well as exploring both the limits and darker aspects of these developments. The limits of the narrative of twentieth century sexual liberation will be explored and discussed in relation to gender and honour in Mediterranean society, the 1980s AIDS crisis and sex and gender in migrant communities. The primary sources that will be used will be drawn in particular from the mass media (incl. visual, textual and audiovisual) as well as from personal testimony (incl. the oral history database of the ‘Around 68’ project, and interviews about homosexuality in West Germany). Seminar topics might include: The 1950s I: The end of war, romance and marriage in Britain and Germany The 1950s II: Religion, reaction and ‘normality’ in post-war Italy The politics of love: Communism and sexuality in France and Italy Between reaction, religion and modernisation: Sexual politics in 1950s and 1960s Franco’s Spain Changing definitions of marriage and love I: The companionate marriage (Britain as case study) Changing definitions of marriage and love II: The commercialization of romance (Britain and France) ‘Je suis libre’? Sexuality in the 1960s between myth and reality The pill in Catholic Europe: From 1960 to Humanae Vitae ‘A revolutionary’s steak takes as long to be done as a bourgeois’ steak’: 1968 and the limits of sexual liberty Honour, gender relations and sexuality in southern Europe: Spain and Italy Second wave feminism: France and Italy Social change and family law reform in Spain from dictatorship to democracy From the ‘pink triangle’ to decriminalization: Gay liberation in West Germany Gender, sexuality, religion and migration: Islamic communities in Northern Europe

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.

Completion of assessment task40
Wider reading or practice30
Preparation for scheduled sessions152
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Antonio Cazorla Sanchez (2010). Fear and progress. Ordinary lives in Franco’s Spain, 1939-1975. 

Donna Harsch (2007). Revenge of the Domestic: Women, the Family, and Communism in the German Democratic Republic. 

Perry Willson (2009). Women in Twentieth Century Italy. 

Jennifer Evans (2011). Life Among the Ruins: Cityscape and Sexuality in Cold War Berlin. 

Lessie Jo Frazier and Deborah Cohen (2009). Gender and Sexuality in 1968: Transformative Politics in the Cultural Imagination. 

Paul Betts (2010). Within Walls: Private Life in the German Democratic Republic. 

Robert Gildea (ed.) (2013). Europe’s 1968: Voices of Revolt. 

Rebecca Pulju (2011). Women and Mass Consumer Society in Postwar France. 

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

Claire Langhamer (2013). The English in Love: The Intimate Story of an Emotional Revolution. 

Arthur Marwick (1998). The 1960s: Cultural Revolution in Britain, France, Germany and the United States, 1958-1974. 

Robert G. Moeller (2010). Private Acts, Public Anxieties, and the Fight to Decriminalize Male Homosexuality in West Germany. Feminist Studies. ,36 , pp. 528-552.

Ute Frevert (2011). ‘Losing Emotions’ (honour) in Emotions in History – Lost and Found. 

Maud Bracke (2014). Women and the Reinvention of the Political: Feminism in Italy. 

Josie McLellan (2011). Love in the Time of Communism: Intimacy and Sexuality in the GDR. 

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

Joan Scott Wallach (2010). The Politics of the Veil. 

Susan Weiner (2001). Enfants Terribles. Youth and Femininity in the Mass Media in France. 

Rebecca Clifford (2012). Emotions and Gender in Oral History: Narrating Italy's 1968. Modern Italy. ,17 , pp. 209-221.

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

Penny Morris (2006). Women in Italy 1945-1960: An Interdisciplinary Study. 

Richard Ivan Jobs (2007). Riding the New Wave: Youth and the Rejuvenation of France After the Second World War. 

Simon Szreter and Kate Fisher (2010). Sex Before the Sexual Revolution: Intimate Life in England 1918- 1963. 

Ute Frevert (2014). Honour and /or /as Passion: Historical trajectories of legal defenses. Rechtsgeschichte - Legal History. ,22 , pp. 245-255.

Niamh Cullen (2014). Changing Emotional Landscapes: Grand Hotel and Representations of Courtship and Love in 1950s Italy. Cultural and Social History. ,11 , pp. 285-306.

Victoria Loree Anders and Pamela Radcliff (1998). Constructing Spanish womanhood: Female identity in modern Spain. 

Dagmar Herzog (2005). Sex after Fascism: Memory and Morality in Twentieth-Century Germany. 

Axel Schildt and Detlef Siegfried (eds.) (2006). Between Marx and Coca-Cola: youth cultures in changing European societies, 1960-1980. 

Penny Morris (2007). A window on the private sphere: advice columns, marriage, and the evolving family in 1950s Italy. Italianist. ,27 , pp. 304-332.

David Forgacs and Stephen Gundle (2007). Mass Culture and Italian Society from Fascism to the Cold War. 

Simon Watney (1996). Policing Desire: AIDS, Pornography and the media. 


Assessment Strategy

Guidance and advice on preparation, completion and presentation of assignments will be available to you in special seminar discussions - You will be encouraged to discuss preparation for your formal assessments with your tutor - You will have the opportunity to seek individual advice on your module progress from your tutor - You will have the opportunity to discuss written feedback on assignments with your tutor


Individual Oral Presentation


MethodPercentage contribution
Blog Post  (500 words) 15%
Book review  (800 words) 15%
Essay  (3000 words) 35%
Exam  (2 hours) 35%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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