Sodomy in Eighteenth-Century France

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.

This book, 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. Chapters 1 and 2 offer a more systematic, skeptical, and subtle analysis of complex questions about mentalities than Rey did. Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the ways in which sodomites made connections through solicitation in public spaces and networking in private places and the ways in which the police tracked them. Chapters 5 and 6 analyze the operations of agents who entrapped sodomites and the procedures of magistrates who judged them.

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.


Jeffrey Merrick received his PhD from Yale University in 1979 and retired from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 2011. His publications include The Desacralization of the French Monarchy in the Eighteenth Century, Order and Disorder under the Ancien Régime, and numerous articles on political culture, family, gender, sexuality and suicide. He has edited or coedited four volumes on homosexuality in French history.

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ISBN: 1-5275-6025-2

ISBN13: 978-1-5275-6025-3

Release Date: 15th December 2020

Pages: 378

Price: £64.99

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