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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Cerretti, Josh

Second Advisor

Zarrow, Sarah

Third Advisor

Zimmerman, Sarah J.


The last few decades of 19th Century Victorian London witnessed a dramatic spike in sodomy persecutions. Some of these trials are well known, such as Oscar Wilde, while many others are mere blots on the historical record. Historians have examined this period, and the corresponding trials, to outline the development of the modern homosexual identity in England. This thesis, rather, examines how this period witnessed a resurgence of heteronormative gendered expectations, particularly regarding masculinity. In outlining these changes, particular attention is focused on grounding the (in)famous Labouchere Amendment, or Clause 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, back into its historical roots of the Contagious Diseases Acts of the 1860s. Previous scholars have treated this amendment as unrelated to the larger bill, however, in tracing this root, this thesis argues that the laws reflect larger societal shifts within Victorian England. These larger social shifts are rooted in connections between masculinity and empire, as connected through a militarized society. As England became the empire the sun never set on, imperial concerns, rooted in a militarized masculinity, were a constant focus for contemporaries who viewed sodomy as a threat to masculinity, and hence the empire. By analyzing the intersection of empire, militarization, and masculinity, this thesis seeks to answer why this period witnessed an increase in sodomy trials – a crime that had been prosecuted for centuries – to understand how the British understood sexual deviancy in the metropole, and its relation to their Empire.




sodomy, empire, militarization, masculinity, heteronormativity


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Sodomy--England--19th century; Sodomy--Law and legislation--England--19th century; Paraphilias--England--19th century

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masters theses




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