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The University of Southampton

HIST3246 A Short History of the Homosexual

Module Overview

Is sex a biologically-conditioned experience that remains constant over place and time, or is sex and sexuality an ever-changing lived reality that reflects (and shapes) broader shifts within society and culture? This overarching question, fiercely debated by historians since the 1970s, is at the heart of this module which examines the turbulent history of same-sex relations of women and men. The module takes the moment of the 'invention' of homosexuality (and heterosexuality) in the late nineteenth century and considers the historical context of this moment and the significance of its impact on gay men and women through to the present. You will survey case-studies ranging from the Ancient World through to the contemporary, drawing together Biblical and artistic sources, criminal records, diaries, and published reports amongst others to compare understandings of same-sex relations in different eras and cultural contexts. This is a chronologically and culturally wide-ranging module, which challenges you to make critical judgements about the value of constructions such as ‘homosexuality' and ‘homophobia', and their place in historical discourse. Since the 1960s, the status of gay people and same-sex sexual relationships has proved one of the most controversial social issues in western society; this module takes a long view of the subject, evaluating along the way the significance of sex as marking the place of individuals within societies.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Different historical contexts for the development of ideas about same-sex sexual relations.
  • The use of the past in contemporary debates about anti-discrimination legislation.
  • A range of critical approaches to the historical study of same-sex sexual relations.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Evaluate different historical approaches to the study of same-sex sexual relations.
  • Make critical judgments about the value of constructions such as ‘homosexuality’ or ‘homophobia’ and their place in historical discourse.
  • Compare different understandings of same-sex sexual relations through analysing case studies from different eras and cultural contexts.
  • Explain why the history of same-sex sexual relations is so hotly contested today.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Reflect on your learning and understanding across the module.
  • Closely analyse a wide range of source material.
  • Communicate your ideas in written form.


Indicative topics that the module may include: Religion and Homosexuality The Law and Homosexuality Medicine and Homosexuality Queer Voices Persecution and Punishment Gay Rights Movements Decriminalisation The AIDs crisis

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: Lectures introducing the key topics Small-group seminars to discuss primary sources and secondary readings Individual essay tutorials Learning methods include: Close analysis of a range of primary sources Extensive reading of secondary and theoretical literature Development of a learning journal to track progress on the module across the semester Research for and production of an analytical essay

Guided independent study125
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Paul Knoebel (2017). A Gay History of India. 

Peter Ackroyd (2017). Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day. 

Dan Healey (2017). Russian Homophobia from Stalin to Sochi. 

Brian Lewis (2016). Wolfenden's Witnesses: Homosexuality in Postwar Britain. 

George Chauncey (1998). Gay New York. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 60%
Learning journal 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 60%
Learning journal 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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