Sex, Health and Deviance in Britian since 1800 - HI6075

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Autumn and Spring 6 60 (30) MR R Moul checkmark-circle


From early nineteenth century concerns over declining birth rates to the profound impact of the AIDS epidemic in the late twentieth century, this module will examine key political, economic, social and medical issues and events that shaped discourse, attitudes and behaviours surrounding sex and health in Britain since 1800. A central concern of this module will be to untangle the complicated relationship between public discourse and private behaviour. Indeed, while vocal social commentators, scientific and medical communities, the State and the Church increasingly sought to regulate sexual attitudes and behaviours, deviant and tabooed practices such as prostitution, masturbation and sex outside marriage were (and still are) prevalent. In untangling public discourse and private behaviour, the module will consider: the extent to which the regulation of sex and health has been successful; the ways in which attitudes and behaviours changed across the period and varied according to geography, social class, sexual preference, gender and ethnicity; and how they affect our attitudes towards sex and health today. Themes addressed in this module include: Britain's role in the global commercialisation of contraceptive technologies; venereal disease; abortion and infanticide; eugenics; same-sex relationships; and sex crimes.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

A 3 hour weekly seminar.

Method of assessment

40% Coursework, 60% exam

1 commentary (1,500 words) on one of the groups of primary documents - 15% of the coursework
1 critical historiographical review (3,000 words) engaging with one of the identified historiographical disputes in the course - 30% of the coursework component
1 independent research essay (4,500 words) focusing on a group of documents and their utility for the broader historiographical debates - 35% of the coursework component
1 presentation (20 minutes) - 20% of the coursework component

60% Examination:
2 examinations, each of two hours and worth 30% each: 1) Source Analysis paper and 2) a paper of standard essay questions

Indicative reading

Cook, H. (2005) The Long Sexual Revolution: English Women, Sex and Contraception 1800-1975, Oxford: Oxford University Press
Davidson, R. and L. Hall (2001) Sex, Sin and Suffering: Venereal Disease and European Society since 1870, London: Routledge
Hall, L. (2012) Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain since 1880, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
J├╝tte, R. (2008) Contraception: A History, Cambridge: Polity Press
Porter, R. and M. Teich (eds.) (1994) Sexual Knowledge, Sexual Science: The History of Attitudes to Sexuality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Szreter, S. (1996) Fertility, Class and Gender in Britain 1860-1940, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Szreter, S and K. Fisher (2010) Sex Before the Sexual Revolution. Intimate Life in England 1918-1963, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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