PRAISE FOR QUEER CITY
“Always entertaining . . . much to be recommended.”—The Spectator
“A nimble, uproarious pocket history of sex in his beloved metropolis.”—Independent
“Ackroyd has an encyclopedic knowledge of London, and a poet’s instinct for its strange, mesmerizing drives and urges . . . Queer City contains something to alarm or fascinate on every page.”—The Mail on Sunday
“Droll, provocative and crammed to busting with startling facts.”—The Guardian
“Succinct, perceptive and robust.”—Daily Telegraph
In Queer City, the acclaimed Peter Ackroyd looks at London in a whole new way–through the complete history and experiences of its gay and lesbian population. In Roman Londinium, the city was dotted with lupanaria (“wolf dens” or public pleasure houses), fornices (brothels), and thermiae (hot baths). Then came the Emperor Constantine, with his bishops, monks, and missionaries. And so began an endless loop of alternating permissiveness and censure. Ackroyd takes us right into the hidden history of the city; from the notorious Normans to the frenzy of executions for sodomy in the early nineteenth century. He journeys through the coffee bars of sixties Soho to Gay Liberation, disco music, and the horror of AIDS. Ackroyd reveals the hidden story of London, with its diversity, thrills, and energy, as well as its terrors, dangers, and risks, and in doing so, explains the origins of all English-speaking gay culture.
British historian Ackroyd (London Under) presents a scintillating history of homosexuality in London. He draws from literature, theater, laws and court cases, pamphlets, and gossip to present an informed yet impressionistic picture of how religion, decree, popular standards, and desire shifted the sexual dynamics of Londoners through the centuries. Ackroyd's primary focus is on the complexities of male roles, exploring the sexual dynamics in man and boy relationships and master and slave relationships in Roman London in the fourth century, and the flourishing of prostitution and secret meeting places in the 17th century. He also discusses stereotypes of each era, like the boyish or femme Ganymede of the 16th century or the upwardly mobile macaronis and the working-class "mollies" of the 18th century. There's also a short chapter on lesbian "rubsters" in the 17th century and one about cross-dressing women in the 18th century. Though Ackroyd delights in the lurid details of his anecdotes such as the case of accusations of sodomy against Francis Bacon and a philosophical treatise Bacon wrote about "masculine love" his coverage of the modern period is brief and notably more somber, focusing on moods of fear and discretion, and stating that "queerness, with all its panache and ferocity, is in elegant retreat." His focus is on the lesser known periods in the history of gay and lesbian culture in London, for which he offers a nimble jaunt through history. Color illus.