New Directions – Gender, Sex and Sexuality in 20th Century British History

Tuesday 8 April 2014, University College London

With a keynote address by Professor Laura Doan, University of Manchester

This one day workshop brings together scholars, at any stage of their career and working on any aspect of gender, sex and sexuality in 20th century Britain, for the presentation of new work and the beginning of a dialogue about the past, present and future of the field.

The workshop programme includes a keynote address from Professor Laura Doan, followed by four panels of three papers, with time for discussion: ‘Rethinking religion, rethinking conservatism’; ‘Gender, sex and sexuality in space’; ‘Material and public cultures’; ‘National, imperial and transnational frames’.

Please note that due to a high amount of interest and limited space, registration for this workshop is now closed. If you would like to be placed on a waiting list in case a place becomes available, please email

New Directions: Gender, Sex and Sexuality in 20th Century British History

Tuesday 8 April 2014, UCL

Kindly supported by UCL Department of History, the

Royal History Society and the Economic History Society

8:45-9:15 Registration

9:15-10:15 Professor Laura Doan (University of Manchester), ‘Queer History, Memory and Time: The Case of Alan Turing’

10:15-10:30 Tea/Coffee

10:30-12:00 PANEL 1:

Rethinking religion, rethinking conservatism

This panel complicates “progressive” narratives of the history of gender, sex and sexuality in 20th Century Britain, in which the gradual displacement of social conservatism by liberalism, and religiosity by secularism, have been seen as central (and related) dynamics. By presenting work on conservative women’s groups and their campaign for the rights of sex workers in Wolfenden-era England (Beaumont), the Church of England’s ongoing struggle with the issue of homosexuality after decriminalisation (Ramsay), and the possibilities of a growing body of postsecular theory for the history of sexuality (Jones), these papers demonstrate the necessity of opening this story to scrutiny and suggest possible ways forward. 

Dr Caitríona Beaumont (London South Bank University), ‘Prostitution, equal moral standards and the citizenship rights of women: conservative women’s groups and the campaign against the criminalization of prostitutes in 1950s Britain’

Laura Ramsay (University of Nottingham), ‘“The angels are on Arran’s side”: The Church of England’s involvement in homosexual law reform and attitudes towards homosexuality after 1967’

Dr Timothy W. Jones (University of Glamorgan/La Trobe University), ‘Towards a postsecular history of sexuality’

12:00-13:00 Lunch

                                                   13:00-14:30 PANEL 2:

Gender, sex and sexuality in space

This panel explores the interplay between concepts of space and gender, sex and sexuality, focusing in turn on the production of masculinities in the domestic spaces of postwar London (Guyan), the sexual and racial anxieties of Cardiff’s dockside “contact zone” (Jenkins), and the complex relationship between working-class life, same-sex desire and masculinity in Northern England (Smith). Whether space is framed as a productive force for new displays of identity, a means to legitimate particular performances over others, or as an area for their contestation, these papers foreground the value of thinking spatially in our analyses of how genders, sexes and sexualities operated in the past.

Kevin Guyan (University College London), ‘Planners and their projects: domestic spaces and the production of masculinities in postwar London’

Simon Jenkins (Cardiff University), ‘Isolated “types” and “alien” spaces: geographies and spatial narratives of race and prostitution in Cardiff, c. 1885 – c. 1950′

Dr Helen Smith (University of Sheffield), ‘“Well then, give us a kiss and say no more about it”: Northern working-class men, masculinity and same-sex desire in the period 1895-1957’

14:30-14:45 Tea/Coffee

14:45-16:15 PANEL 3:

Material and public cultures

This panel explores interactions between historical actors, the material world and the public sphere through accounts of the 1970s British condom market and its shifting articulations of reproductive responsibility, sexual pleasure and male form (Mechen), the queering of state communications networks in turn of the century London (Hindmarch-Watson), and the self-fashioning of queer identities by men and women reading both with and against the grain of a frequently hostile midcentury tabloid press (Bengry). Together, these papers highlight the importance of considering the non-human alongside the human in historical landscapes, and the many imbrications of gender, sex and sexuality with processes of consumerisation, technologisation and mediatisation.

Ben Mechen (University College London), ‘“Closer encounters”: Durex and the development of contraceptive consumerism in Seventies Britain’

Dr Katie Hindmarch-Watson (Colorado State University), ‘Queer information networks and technologies of power: intersections of work, pleasure, and rule in British state telecommunications’

Dr Justin Bengry (McGill University/Birkbeck, University of London), ‘“If homosexuals stopped buying those particular newspapers…”: Capitalism, identity and resistance in pre-decriminalization Britain’

16:15-16:45 Tea/Coffee

16:45-18:30 PANEL 4:

National, imperial and transnational frames

This panel questions the notion of a “British” history of gender, sex and sexuality, with papers arguing for the possible utility of, in turn, the subdivision of Britain into its component nations (Brady and O’Neill) and its analysis as an imperial metropole in which concepts or identities were often formed in relation to colonial others (Tebbutt). These papers ask: what is the place of the “nation” in histories of gender, sex and sexuality? And which alternative geographic frames are possible?

Dr Sean Brady (Birkbeck, University of London), ‘“Save Ulster from Sodomy!”: Northern Ireland and homosexuality after 1967’

Jane O’Neill (University of Edinburgh), ‘Negotiating sexualities: adolescence, gender and sexuality in Scotland, 1945-80’

Clare Tebbutt (University of Manchester), ‘Placing race and Empire in British queer histories: a case study’

18:30-19:30 Drinks

New Directions – Programme (PDF)


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