Booklist 4: History


Crompton, L:  “Homosexuality & Civilization”

There are many good books available on homosexuality in history, and thank God for that. These have a range of approaches, including scholarly, specialist tomes, more accessible pen-portraits of single notable people, or of single eras or regions. There is after all, an awful lot of history, containing an awful lot of queers.

For any historian, trying to make sense of the full sweep of history is an impossible task – there is just too much of it.  Try to be too inclusive, and the reader will drown in the detail. Try to provide an intelligible, rounded account of particular periods in particular places, and far too much will be omitted. Louis Crompton goes for the latter approach, and provides a valuable, immensely readable book – but with some unavoidable but notable gaps (about which more below).

Homosexuality and Civilization

I prefer to begin by reflecting on the strengths, of which there are many.  Reputable experts have been enthusiastic in their praise, so I make no attempt to assess its value as historical analysis.  Instead, I will comment only on my personal reaction, as a general reader with some prior knowledge, but no specialist expertise. Crompton has done a fine job of negotiating a careful balance between inserting too much detail for the specialist, and the superficial for the casual reader. The result,  is a book that reads easily, with vivid, lively prose, but is always informative and thought-provoking. <!–more–>There is enough material in its 622 pages to be satisfying, but not daunting. (The 16 self-contained chapters  which can be read in sequence as a whole, or savoured one bite at a time. ) I also loved the pictures, which are big enough to be appreciated, spread through the text and sufficient in number to be illustrative and satisfying, but not so many that they crowd out the text.

Read more here

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