Faculty of Arts


Sexual Histories: Western Sexualities from Medieval to Modern Times


Aims and objectives

Using examples from the USA and Europe, this course explores the shifting meanings, languages and practices of western sexualities. It is a sustained – and hopefully extremely interesting – exploration of sex as a social, cultural and historical construct. 

Topics covered will include origins and development in the ancient world and early Christian ideologies, images of the body, the roles of gender, reproduction and marriage in sexuality, homosexual identities, Victorian ideologies and behaviour, changing discourses of pornography, the modern privileging of sex and the impact of AIDS.

At Stage I we introduce students to some of the basic aspects of the study of history. In "Sexual Histories" you will gain new knowledge about sexualities in western history, but, even more importantly, you will come to view both sexuality and history in unexpected new ways.

You will also be introduced to some of the varying interpretations of historians who have written on the history of sexualities, and to some primary materials to show the kinds of evidence on which historians base their interpretations and explanations.

Availability 2020

Not taught in 2020


Coordinator(s) Associate Professor Kim Phillips
Professor Barry Reay


KM Phillips and B. Reay (eds), Sexualities in History: A Reader, New York, 2002.

Recommended Reading

Kim M. Phillips and Barry Reay, Sex before Sexuality: A Premodern History, Cambridge, 2011.


Coursework + exam


HISTORY 102: 15.0 points

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