Gay London History: Reading List

A gay couple dancing at the Chelsea Arts New Year’s Eve Ball. Photograph by Tony Linck. London, January 1947

A list of books relating to London’s fascinating history as a gay city.

London is a city rich in history, and that goes double for London’s gay history. Centuries of men and women have loved and lusted after each other in same sex relationships, even when society – and the law – was against them.

See below for an ever-growing list of books, both old and new, that reveal some of the fascinating stories about queer London life.

Queer London History Websites

Gay History & Literature: Essays by Rictor Norton


Queer London History Books

Ackroyd, P., Dressing up, Transvestism and Drag: The History of an Obsession (London, 1979)

Ackroyd, P., Queer City: Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day (London, 2017)

Aldrich, R. (ed.), Gay Life and Culture: A World History (London, 2006)

Altman, D. (ed.), Homosexuality, which homosexuality? (Amsterdam, 1989)

Andreadis, A. H., Sappho in Early Modern England: Female Same-Sex Literary Erotics, 1550–1714 (Chicago, 2001)

Andrei, C., Transgender Underground: London & the Third Sex (London, 2002)

Anon, Hell upon Earth: Or the Town in an Uproar. Occasion’d by the Late Horrible Scenes of Forgery, Perjury, Street-robbery, Murder, Sodomy, and other Shocking Impieties … (London, 1729)

Anon, Select Trials, for Murders, Robberies, Rapes, Sodomy, Coining, Frauds, and other offences at the Sessions-House in the Old-Bailey … (London, 1742)

Arnold, C., City of Sin: London and its Vices (London, 2010)

Aronson, T., Prince Eddy and the Homosexual Underworld (London, 1994)

Bailey, D. S., Homosexuality and the Western Christian Tradition (London, 1955)

Barker, M., Queer: A Graphic History (London 2016)

Bartlett, N., Who was that Man? A Present for Mr. Oscar Wilde (London, 1988)

Beckford, W., Life at Fonthill, 1807–1822 (Stroud, 2006)

Bell, D., & Valentine, G., Mapping Desire: Geographies of Sexualities (London, 1995)

Bellamy, J. G., Crime and Public Order in England in the Later Middle Ages (London, 1973)

Bergeron, D. M., King James and Letters of Homoerotic Desire (Iowa, 1999)

Betteridge, T. (ed.), Sodomy in Early Modern Europe (Manchester, 2002)

Bly, M., Queer Virgins and Virgin Queans on the Early Modern Stage (Oxford, 2000)

Borris, K., Same-Sex Desire in the English Renaissance: A Sourcebook of Texts, 1470–1650 (New York, 2003)

Boswell, J., Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (Chicago, 1980)

Boswell, J., The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe (London, 1995)

Boucé, P-G. (ed.), Sexuality in eighteenth-century Britain (Manchester, 1982)

Brady, S., Masculinity and Male Homosexuality in Britain, 1861–1913 (New York, 2005)

Bray, A., Homosexuality in Renaissance England (London, 1982)

Bray, A., The Friend (Chicago, 2003) Bredbeck, G. W., Sodomy and Interpretation: Marlowe to Milton (Ithaca, 1991)

Bromley, J. M., & Stockton, W. (eds), Sex Before Sex: Figuring the Act in Early Modern England (Minneapolis, 2013)

Brown, J., Trapped: Living with Gender Dysphoria (Milton Keynes, 2008)

Bullough, V. L., Sexual Variance in Society and History (New York, 1976)

Bullough, V. L., & Brundage, J. A. (eds), Handbook of Medieval Sexuality (New York, 1996)

Burford, E. J., The Orrible Synne: A Look at London Lechery from Roman to Cromwellian times (London, 1973)

Burke, T., The London Spy: A Book of Town Travels (London, 1922)

Chaplais, P., Piers Gaveston: Edward II’s Adoptive Brother (Oxford, 1994)

Clark, D., Between Medieval Men: Male Friendship and Desire in Early Medieval English Literature (Oxford, 2013)

Cocks, H., Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the 19th Century (London, 2003)

Cocks, H., & Houlbrook, M. (eds), Palgrave Advances in the Modern History of Sexuality (Basingstoke, 2006)

Cohen, E., Talk on the Wilde Side: Towards a Genealogy of a Discourse on Male Sexualities (New York, 1993)

Cohen, J. J., & Wheeler, B. (eds), Becoming Male in the Middle Ages (New York, 1997)

Cook, M., London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885–1914 (Cambridge, 2003)

Cook, M., Queer Domesticities: Homosexuality and Home Life in Twentieth-Century London (Basingstoke, 2014)

Cook, M., Cocks, H., Mills, R., & Trumbach, R. (eds), A Gay History of Britain: Love and Sex between Men since the Middle Ages (Oxford, 2007)

Cox, D., The Street of Wonderful Possibilities: Whistler, Wilde & Sargent in Tite Street (London, 2015)

Crabb, J., (ed.), Decadence: A Literary Anthology (London 2016)

Crawford, K., European Sexualities, 1400–1800 (Cambridge, 2007)

Crisp, Q., The Naked Civil Servant (London, 1977)

Crompton, L., Byron and Greek love: Homophobia in 19th-century England (London, 1985)

Crompton, L., Homosexuality and Civilization (Cambridge, MA, 2003)

Cruickshank, D., The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital (London, 2009)

Davenport-Hines, R. P. T., Sex, Death and Punishment: Attitudes to Sex and Sexuality in Britain Since the Renaissance (London, 1990)

David, H., On Queer Street: A Social History of British Homosexuality, 1895–1995 (London, 1997)

Dekker, R., & Pol, L. van de, The Tradition of Female Transvestism in Early Modern Europe (Basingstoke, 1989)

Dellamora, R., Victorian Sexual Dissidence (Chicago, 1999)

Dinshaw, C., Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre-and Postmodern (Durham, NC, 1999)

DiPiero, T., & Gill, P. (eds), Illicit Sex: Identity Politics in Early Modern Culture (Athens, GA, 1996)

Doan, L. L., Fashioning Sapphism: The Origins of a Modern English Lesbian Culture (New York, 2001)

Donoghue, E. (ed.), Passions Between Women (London, 2014)

Duberman, M. B., Vicinus, M., & Chauncey, G., Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past (London, 1991)

Ekins, R., & King, D., The Transgender Phenomenon (London, 2006)

Ellis, H., Studies in the Psychology of Sex (Vol. II): Sexual Inversion (Philadelphia, 1921)

Epstein, J., & Straub, K. (eds), Body Guards: The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity (New York, 1991)

Faderman, L., Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (London, 1985)

Farnham, M., & Marshall, P., Walking after Midnight: Gay Men’s Life Stories (London, 1989)

Fielding, H., The Female Husband: Or, the Surprising History of Mrs. Mary, Alias Mr. George Hamilton, who was Convicted of having Married a Young Woman of Wells and Lived with her as her Husband. Taken from her own Mouth since her Confinement (London, 1746)

Fletcher, A., Gender, Sex and Subordination in England, 1500–1800 (New Haven, 1995)

Forster, E. M., Maurice (London, 1971) Foucault, M., The History of Sexuality, 3 volumes (Harmondsworth, 1990)

Fradenburg, L. O. A., & Freccero, C., (eds), Premodern Sexualities (New York, 1996)

Frantzen, A. J., Before the Closet: Same-Sex Love from Beowulf to Angels in America (Chicago, 1998)

Garton, S., Histories of Sexuality (London, 2004)

Gerard, K., & Hekma, G., The Pursuit of Sodomy: Male Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe (New York, 1989)

Goldberg, J., Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities (Stanford, 1992)

Goldberg, J. (ed.), Queering the Renaissance Renaissance (Durham, NC, 1994)

Goldberg, J. (ed.), Reclaiming Sodom (New York, 1994)

Goldsmith, N. M., The Worst of Crimes: Homosexuality and the Law in Eighteenth-century London (Aldershot, 1998)

Goodich, M., The Unmentionable Vice: Homosexuality in the Later Medieval Period (Santa Barbara, 1979)

Greenberg, D. F., The Construction of Homosexuality (Chicago, 1988)

Hadley, D. M., Masculinity in Medieval Europe (London, 1999)

Haggerty, G. E., Men in Love: Masculinity and Sexuality in the Eighteenth Century (New York, 1999)

Haggerty, G. E., Queer Gothic (Urbana, 2006)

Hall, R., The Well of Loneliness (London, 1973)

Hallam, P., The Book of Sodom (London, 1993)

Halperin, D. M., One Hundred Years of Homosexuality: And Other Essays on Greek Love (New York, 1990)

Halsband, R., Lord Hervey; Eighteenth-Century Courtier (Oxford, 1973)

Hammond, P., Figuring Sex between Men from Shakespeare to Rochester (Oxford, 2002)

Harris, M., The Dilly Boys: Male Prostitution in Piccadilly (London, 1973)

Harrison, M., The London That Was Rome (London, 1971)

Harvey, A. D., Sex in Georgian England: Attitudes and Prejudices from the 1720s to the 1820s (London, 1994)

Heaphy, B., Smart, C., & Einarsdottir, A., Same Sex Marriages: New Generations, New Relationships (Basingstoke, 2013)

Herdt, G. H., Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History (New York, 1994)

Hergemöller, B-U., & Phillips, J., Sodom and Gomorrah: On the Everyday Reality and Persecution of Homosexuals in the Middle Ages (London, 2001)

Herrup, C. B., A House in Gross Disorder: Sex, Law, and the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven (New York, 1999)

Higgins, P., Heterosexual Dictatorship: Male Homosexuality in Postwar Britain (London, 1996)

Higgs, D. (ed.), Queer Sites: Gay Urban Histories since 1600 (London, 1999)

Hitchcock, T., English Sexualities, 1700–1800 (Basingstoke, 1997)

Hitchcock, T., & Cohen, M. (ed.), English Masculinities, 1660–1800 (London, 1999)

Holloway, R., The Phoenix of Sodom (Portsmouth, 2011)

Houlbrook, M., Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918–1957 (Chicago, 2005)

Hyde, H. M., The Other Love: An Historical and Contemporary Survey of Homosexuality in Britain (London, 1970)

Hyde, H. M., The Cleveland Street Scandal (London, 1976)

Janes, D., Picturing the Closet: Male Secrecy and Homosexual Visibility in Britain (Oxford, 2015)

Jennings, R., A Lesbian History of Britain: Love and Sex between Women since 1500 (Oxford, 2007)

Jordan, M. D., The Invention of Sodomy in Christian Theology (Chicago, 1997)

Kaplan, M. B., Sodom on the Thames: Sex, Love, and Scandal in Wilde Times (Ithaca, 2005)

Keiser, E. B., Courtly Desire and Medieval Homophobia: The Legitimation of Sexual Pleasure in Cleanness and its Contexts (New Haven, 1997)

Kellow, C., The Victorian Underworld (Harmondsworth, 1972)

Ketton-Cremer, R. W., Thomas Gray: A Biography (Cambridge, 1955)

King, T. A., The Gendering of Men, 1600–1750, Volume 1: The English Phallus (Madison, 2004)

Koven, S., Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London (Princeton, 2004)

Laslett, P., The World we have Lost (London, 1965)

Lewis, B. (ed.), British Queer History: New Approaches and Perspectives (Manchester, 2013)

Linnane, F., London: The Wicked City: A Thousand Years of Vice in the Capital (London, 2003)

Maccubbin, R. P. (ed.), ’Tis Nature’s Fault: Unauthorized Sexuality during the Enlightenment (Cambridge, 1987)

McCormick, I. (ed.), Secret Sexualities: A Sourcebook of 17th and 18th Century Writing (London, 1997)

McKenna, N., The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde (London, 2003)

McKenna, N., Fanny and Stella: The Young Men who Shocked Victorian England (London, 2013)

Mayne, X., Intersexes: a History of Similisexualism As a Problem in Social Life (Geneva, c. 1909)

Miller, N., Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present (London, 1995)

Mounsey, C., Presenting Gender: Changing Sex in Early-Modern Culture (Lewisburg, PA, 2001)

Mounsey, C., & Gonda, C. (eds), Queer People: Negotiations and Expressions of Homosexuality, 1700–1800 (Lewisburg, PA, 2007)

Murray, J., Conflicted Identities and Multiple Masculinities: Men in the Medieval West (New York, 1999)

Murray, J., & Eisenbichler, K. (eds), Desire and Discipline: Sex and Sexuality in the Premodern West (Toronto, 1996)

Naphy, W. G., Born to be Gay: A History of Homosexuality (Stroud, 2004)

Norton, R., Mother Clap’s Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England 1700–1830 (London, 1992)

Norton, R., The Myth of the Modern Homosexual: Queer History and the Search for Cultural Unity (London, 1997)

Norton, R., Gay History and Literature (London, 2016)

Norton, R. (ed.), Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook (London, 2016)

O’Donnell, K., & O’Rourke, M. (eds), Love, Sex, Intimacy, and Friendship between Men, 1550–1800 (Basingstoke, 2003)

Oram, A., & Turnbull, A. (eds), The Lesbian History Sourcebook: Love and Sex between Women in Britain from 1780 to 1970 (London, 2001)

Orgel, S., Impersonations: The Performance of Gender in Shakespeare’s England (Cambridge, 1996)

Orton, J., The Orton Diaries: Including the Correspondence of Edna Welthorpe and Others (Lahr, J., ed.) (London, 1986)

Pasternack, C. B., & Weston, L. M. (eds), Sex and Sexuality in Anglo-Saxon England: Essays in Memory of Daniel Gillmore Calder (Tempe, AZ, 2004)

Payer, P. J., Sex and the Penitentials: The Development of a Sexual Code, 550–1150 (Toronto, 1984)

Peakman, J., Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century (London, 2004)

Phillips, K. M., & Reay, B., Sexualities in History: A Reader (New York, 2002)

Phillips, K. M., & Reay, B., Sex Before Sexuality: A Premodern History (Cambridge, 2011)

Plummer, K. (ed.), The Making of the Modern Homosexual (London, 1981)

Porter, K., & Weeks, J. (eds), Between the Acts: Lives of Homosexual Men 1885–1967 (London, 1991)

Porter, R., & Rousseau, G. S. (eds), Sexual Underworlds of the Enlightenment (Manchester, 1987)

Quinn, P. A., Better than the Sons of Kings: Boys and Monks in the Early Middle Ages (New York, 1989)

Raitt, S. (ed.), Volcanoes and Pearl Divers: Essays in Lesbian Feminist Studies (London, 1995)

Reade, B. (ed.), Sexual Heretics: Male Homosexuality in English Literature from 1850 to 1900: An Anthology (London, 1970)

Render, R. (ed.), A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Charlotte Clarke (London, 1999)

Robb, G., & Erber, N., (eds), Disorder in the Court: Trials and Sexual Conflict at the Turn of the Century (Basingstoke, 1999)

Robinson, P., The Changing World of Gay Men (Basingstoke, 2008)

Rocke, M., Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence (New York, 1996)

Rossiaud, J., & Cochrane, L. G., Medieval Prostitution (Oxford, 1988)

Rowland, J. T., ‘Swords in myrtle dress’d’: Towards a Rhetoric of Sodom: Gay Readings of Homosexual Politics and Poetics in the Eighteenth Century (Madison, 1998)

Sedgwick, E. K., Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York, 1985)

Simpson, C., Chester, L., & Leitch, D., The Cleveland Street Affair (London, 1977)

Sinfield, A., The Wilde Century: Effeminacy, Oscar Wilde and the Queer Moment (London, 1994)

Smith, B. R., Homosexual Desire in Shakespeare’s England: A Cultural Poetics (Chicago, 1991)

Spencer, C., Homosexuality: A History (London, 1995)

Stearns, P. N., Sexuality in World History (London, 2009)

Steele, E., The Memoirs of Mrs Sophia Baddeley, Late of Drury Lane Theatre (London, 1787)

Steele, V., A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk (New Haven, 2013)

Stewart, A., Close Readers: Humanism and Sodomy in Early Modern England (Princeton, 1997)

Summers, C. J. (ed.), Homosexuality in Renaissance and Enlightenment England: Literary Representation in Historical Context (New York, 1992)

Summerskill, C., Gateway to Heaven: Fifty Years of Lesbian and Gay Oral History (London, 2013)

Todd, J., The Secret Life of Aphra Behn (London, 1996)

Toulalan, S., Imagining Sex: Pornography and Bodies in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford, 2007)

Trumbach, R., Sex and the Gender Revolution (Chicago, 1998)

Vicinus, M., Intimate Friends: Women Who Loved Women: 1778–1928 (Chicago, 2004)

Walton, T. (ed.), Out of the Shadows: A History of the Pioneering London Gay Groups and Organisations, 1967–2000 (London, 2010)

Weeks, J., Coming Out: Homosexual Politics in Britain, from the Nineteenth Century to the Present (London, 1990)

Weeks, J., The World We Have Won: The Remaking of Erotic and Intimate Life (London, 2007) Whitaker, K., Mad Madge (London, 2003)

White, C. (ed.), Nineteenth-Century Writings on Homosexuality: A Sourcebook (London, 1999)

Whittle, S. (ed.), The Margins of the City: Gay Men’s Urban Lives (Aldershot, 1994)

Wilson, E., The Sphinx in the City: Urban Life, the Control of Disorder, and Women (London, 1991)

Wilson, W., Love-letters between a Certain Late Nobleman and the Famous Mr. Wilson (London, 1723)

Wunderli, R. M., London Church Courts and Society on the Eve of the Reformation (Cambridge, MA, 1981)

Young, M. B., James VI and I and the History of Homosexuality (Basingstoke, 2000)

Zeikowitz, R. E., Homoeroticism and Chivalry: Discourses in Male Same-Sex Desire in the Fourteenth Century (New York, 2003)

Zimmerman, S. (ed.), Erotic Politics: Desire on the Renaissance Stage (New York, 1992)