Brock Lecture: Oxbridge and the Invention of Male Homosexuality, 1850-1939

By 1904, all British universities except Oxford and Cambridge admitted women to degrees. By 1919, UK higher education was nationalised, with the typical student attending a gender-integrated nonresidential university. In these newly gender-integrated environments, heterosexuality offered a useful script for negotiating cross-gender interaction; this quickly became the normative way of organising relations between women and men in middle-class culture more widely. Yet some men sought to leverage a unique and increasingly marginal institutional structure in higher education—the Oxbridge college—to resist the gender integration and heterosexualisation of bourgeois society that they saw happening around them.

In this lecture Dr Rutherford will tell the story of these Oxford and Cambridge men (including Corpus’s own E.P. Warren), the claims they made for the exceptional value of the intimate community of the men’s residential college, and how they drew on the intellectual and cultural resources of the college to develop new ideas about the nature of male homosexuality. Emily will discuss how the resulting understanding of male homosexuality, like heterosexuality, limited the possibilities for conceptualising gender and sexual diversity, and why university history is important to queer history and the history of sexuality.

Dr Emily Rutherford is MG Brock Junior Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College.

Open to all, followed by a Drinks Reception. To help with catering, please email if you would like to attend.