For a Kinder, Gentler Society
A History of Homosexuality in Europe, Vol. I & II
Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939
  • Florence Tamagne
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A History of Homosexuality in Europe, Vol. I & II. Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939
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Just crawling out from under the Victorian blanket, Europe was devastated by a gruesome war that consumed the flower of its youth. Tamagne dissects the strands of euphoria, rebellion, exploration, nostalgia and yearning, and the bonds forged at school and on the battlefront, in a scholarly treatise charting the early days of the homosexual and lesbian scene.

Volume I explores the scenes in three different cities.

Volume II focuses on the decline, and the counter-trend, from 1933 to 1939.


About the Author

Florence Tamagne holds a PhD from the prestigious Institute of Political Studies in Paris, France. A HISTORY, her first book, is unique in its focus on the inter-war period, tracing the evolution of the “second” and “third generations” of homosexuals from the Roaring Twenties to the Fascist backlash.

About the Book

What happened to homosexuals during and after World War II has been described in other books; here, Florence Tamagne traces the different trends in Germany, England and France in the period leading up to that cataclysm and...

What happened to homosexuals during and after World War II has been described in other books; here, Florence Tamagne traces the different trends in Germany, England and France in the period leading up to that cataclysm and provides important background to any understanding of the later events.

The period between the two world wars was crucial in the history of homosexuality in Europe. It was then that homosexuality first came out into the light of day. Berlin became the capital of the new culture and the center of a political movement seeking rights and protections for what we now call gays and lesbians. In England, the struggle was brisk to undermine the structures and strictures of Victorianism; whereas in France (which was more tolerant, over all), homosexuality remained more subtle and nonmilitant.

Volume I introduces the first glimmerings of tolerance for homosexuality around the turn of the last century, quickly squelched by the trial of Oscar Wilde which sent a chill throughout the cosmopolitan centers of the world. Then, a variety of factors came together in the aftermath of World War I to forge a climate that was more permissive and open. The Roaring Twenties are sometimes seen, in retrospect, as having been a golden age for homosexuals and lesbians; and the literary output of the era shows why.

Volume II, however, explores a different dynamic that was also taking shape, and how that played out. The Depression, the rise of fascist movements, and a counter-reaction against what were seen as the excesses of the post-war era contributed to a crackdown on homosexuals, and new forms of repression emerged.

However, the social and political backlash soon became apparent, first of all in Germany. Repression arrested the evolution of the new mores, and it was not until the 1960s that the wave of liberation could once again sweep the continent.

Tamagne's 2-volume work outlines the long and arduous journey from the shadows toward acceptability as the homosexual and lesbian community finds a new legitimacy at various levels of society. She weaves together cultural references from literature, songs and theater, news stories and private correspondence, police and government documents to give a rounded picture of the evolving scene.

Bibliography, notes, index.

A History of Homosexuality in Europe (1919-1939) was originally published in France by Editions du Seuil. This is the complete English translation. Volumes I and II are also sold separately.


Introduction

The concept of sexuality is not only determined by culture, but also by class and gender. Thus, the traditional (so-called “middle-class”) schema of sexuality is the monogamist heterosexual family. It may be associated with economic considerations (the woman does not...

The concept of sexuality is not only determined by culture, but also by class and gender. Thus, the traditional (so-called “middle-class”) schema of sexuality is the monogamist heterosexual family. It may be associated with economic considerations (the woman does not work), ideological considerations (the woman does not have independent sexuality, she must embody the image of the “eternal” female and conform to her “womanly role”), and political considerations (the family is a factor of stability within society). This conformist model was spread from the middle class to the working class starting around the end of the 19th century, as a result of the bourgeoisie’s efforts to impose morality upon the masses. Under this highly restrictive definition of the sexual standard, any form of sexuality not conforming to that pattern was categorized as abnormal.

Thus, under the combined pressures of religion, medicine, the law and morality, specific types were born: the child who masturbates, the hysterical woman, the congenital prostitute, the homosexual. The history of sexuality cuts across many fields of human activity and history: it touches on the history of morals, changing attitudes, and in particular how our imagination has shifted over time: the history of representation, as well as the history of medicine, the law, the police, religion and, of course, political history.

Literary history, art history, and the history of language also add to the picture. Attitudes toward sexuality can only be understood in a broad context. The history of sexuality, and thus the history of homosexuality, cannot be described in social terms alone. It sheds light on fields that seem to be quite unrelated, and gives us a better understanding of specific periods. This richness is, at the same time, its principal difficulty; the sources are many, and varied, and it is not immediately apparent that they are related to each other. Working to synthesize all these inputs, the historian sometimes realizes that he has ventured onto grounds which are foreign to him, like medicine and anthropology.

As is true for any history of social attitudes, the historian must make an effort not to apply ulterior values to the population under study. He must also be fully conscious of his own prejudices and acquired views related to his education, his gender, his lifestyle, his social and cultural origin and his personal experience. Then we must consider whether the sources are neutral. In the field of social attitudes, representations and public opinion, we are constantly dealing with subjective documents and with personal testimonies, from which it is sometimes difficult to draw conclusions. Extensive use of historical literature as evidence can likewise entail involuntary distortions. With a question like homosexuality, especially, one may encounter silence, a lack of evidence, or false evidence. Thus with all humility it must be admitted that an ideal neutrality cannot be attained in the history of sexuality, nor even perhaps the approximate truth — much less in the history of homosexuality. We must be aware of that; but that does not mean we have to throw in the towel. There is a minimal truth that is worth seeking, exposing and analyzing. And that is what I will attempt to do in this work.


Excerpt

Excerpt from Vol. I, Chapter 5: BREAKING THE SILENCE: HOMOSEXUALS AND PUBLIC OPINION

Homosexuality was a trendy topic in the Twenties. While it had been taboo until the beginning of the century, in the aftermath of the war there was a virtual explosion of homosexual themes in literature and the arts. More subtle was the emergence of homoerotic imagery in broad sectors of society,...

Excerpt from Vol. I, Chapter 5: BREAKING THE SILENCE: HOMOSEXUALS AND PUBLIC OPINION

Homosexuality was a trendy topic in the Twenties. While it had been taboo until the beginning of the century, in the aftermath of the war there was a virtual explosion of homosexual themes in literature and the arts. More subtle was the emergence of homoerotic imagery in broad sectors of society, especially among young people. Sports events became an opportunity for promoting images of naked bodies strongly charged with erotic connotations, with androgynous appeal, while the proliferation of single-gender organizations and group activities, whether fitness-related or educational, took on a certain homosexual mystique. The public showed an interest tinged with concern; the trend was perceived as representing the new, the modern, a phenomenon that was typical of the post-war period and steadily growing. A few sounded the alarm in the 1920s, complaining of decadence. The image of the homosexual was crafted as a curious mix of old prejudices, new medical definitions and visual stereotypes.

The concept of public opinion is very difficult to define; for our purposes, we will use the term to refer to the expression of the community vis-à-vis a particular phenomenon, and also as the assertion of a prevailing viewpoint within a social group1; in fact, it is “neither fixed nor immutable” but, on the contrary, is subject to infinite variations, shifts, and reversals depending on events, external pressures and its own evolution. While public opinion is a collective phenomenon, it is not readily reducible to major entities such as the press....


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Pages 492
Year: 2004
LC Classification: HQ76.3.E8T3513
Dewey code: 306.76'6'0940904—dc22
BISAC: SOC012000
BISAC: HIS010020
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-355-9
Price: USD 39.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-356-6
Price: USD 49.95
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• A History of Homosexuality in Europe, Vol. II —   Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939
• A History of Homosexuality in Europe, Vol. I —   Berlin, London, Paris 1919-1939