The Glorious Sexual Revolution: William III and the Expression of Queer Subjectivities in Early Modern Britain
Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Jonathan Spangler
Dr Craig Griffiths
The ‘Buggery Act’ of 1533 was England’s first civil sodomy law, making sexual intercourse between men a capital offence. However, the explicit persecution of ‘sodomites’ did not begin until the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Historians have argued that the ‘Society for the Reformation of Manners’, created in 1690, was responsible for this rise in oppression, bringing homosexuality to public attention for the first time. This project will challenge this discourse, offering alternative evidence to explain why the persecution and wider awareness of queer subjectivities began during this period. It will expand on the work of queer theorists, such as Judith Butler and Helmut Puff, to move away from the essentialism that has typically characterised works foundational to the history of homosexuality. This will allow for a more nuanced study of the early modern origins of what is later characterised as ‘homosexual’. As its primary source base, this research will analyse anti-Williamite satires. These documents contain explicit accusations of sodomy against King William III (1650 – 1702) and disrupted traditional Western concepts of male same-sex intercourse.
By shifting research focus away from trials and criminality to look at other indicators of alternative sexual behaviour, this project will challenge conventional historical narratives which place the expression of a recognisable homosexual identity in the 19th century. Instead, it will work to locate queer subjectivities which centre on same-sex desire and effeminate behaviour in the late 17th century. It will break new ground by bringing together court studies and queer history, two disciplines rarely seen in combination, moving beyond themes which have typically dominated queer histories, such as criminality and law.
Early Modern Britain and