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We know more about men who sought and had sex with men in eighteenth-century Paris than in any other city at the time. Police records provide information about thousands of sodomites who were arrested and thousands more who were not. Michel Rey explored the sodomitical culture of the capital in five articles, based on one set of sources, published from 1982 to 1994. No one has completed his pioneering work in the archives and challenged his anachronistic conclusions about identity, community, and effeminacy. Jeffrey Merrick's book Sodomy in Eighteenth-Century France (Cambridge Scholars, 2020), the first on the subject based on extensive research in all of the relevant series of police records, explores patterns and changes in the lives of men who desired men and in the surveillance and punishment of same-sex relations across the century. The book examines what the extant sources do and do not tell us about the heads, hearts, and hands of men detained or mentioned by the police. To that end, it includes a generous selection of documents that allow us to hear voices from the archives, including many that require us to rethink what we thought we knew about the subculture.
Jana Byars is the Academic Director of Netherlands: International Perspectives on Sexuality and Gender.
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