Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

2/7/2004

Out of the Past: Stories from the Archives

Is the past of gay men and lesbians really “hidden from history”? To demonstrate the surprising wealth of archival sources for lesbian and gay history, The National Archives is hosting a special event: “Out of the Past: Stories from the Archives”. The free event was held by The National Archives in west London on Tuesday 29 June.

Best-selling historical novelist Sarah Waters, author of ‘Tipping the Velvet’, ‘Affinity’ and ‘Fingersmith’, will be speaking about how she created Victorian lesbian and gay characters in her work. Sarah will sign copies of her books.

A panel of historians will reveal lost stories about gay and lesbian history in Britain they have uncovered while researching in the archives.

Speakers include:

Matt Houlbrook, University of Liverpool, will share a cautionary tale about the pleasures and perils of immersing yourself in the queer past at The National Archives. Matt’s obsession with police constables in rouge and 1930s dresses landed him in a tattoo parlour in Kentish Town.
Harry Cocks, University of London, will be talking about how the gay community used code words such as “genuine and sincere” in lonely hearts columns and personal ads in “The Link” paper to find a “broadminded” pal of the same sex between 1915 and 1921.
Laura Doan, University of Manchester, will describe her work to get access to the Home Office files, originally closed until 2040, about the banning of Radclyffe Hall’s groundbreaking lesbian novel “The Well of Loneliness”.
Rebecca Jennings, also from University of Manchester, will discuss how the women’s services and police force have, for much of the 20th century, been associated with sexual immorality and deviance and explain how The National Archives can be used to trace perceptions of, and the potential for, lesbianism in the ranks in the mid-20th century.
The National Archives has also launched a new research guide to help make gay and lesbian history more accessible to people interested in the subject. Topics covered in the guide include: marriage and divorce, fraud, defamation and slander and censorship.

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