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Homosexuality & Civilization

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  317 ratings  ·  25 reviews
How have major civilizations of the last two millennia treated people who were attracted to their own sex? In a narrative tour de force, Louis Crompton chronicles the lives and achievements of homosexual men and women alongside a darker history of persecution, as he compares the Christian West with the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, Arab Spain, imperial China, and pr ...more
Paperback, 623 pages
Published October 1st 2006 by Belknap Press (first published November 15th 2003)
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4.19  · 
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 ·  317 ratings  ·  25 reviews

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Julie Bozza
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Finished at last! :-) I am very pleased to have read this book, but I can't deny some of it was tough going - and you will understand why when I say that the narrative ends with the last execution for homosexuality in Europe. Once we were past the Inquisition, though, things started slowly getting brighter, and it's terrific to read of individuals who successfully defied the social laws and mores of their day, and philosophers who managed to reason their way to more enlightened views.

I learned
Buzz H.
Feb 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, queer
Dr. Crompton provides a thoroughly researched and well presented survey of same-sex attraction and sexuality in Europe and East Asia. He provides some information about Central America as well, but evidently Africa, South Asia, pre-Columbian North and South America, Oceania, and the Caribbean do not fall under the rubric of "civilization." Ahem. Unexamined racism is annoying. He does, happily, pay attention to female sexuality in the book.

Given that this book purports to be a global survey, the
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This has been the most rigorously researched book that I’ve read since John Boswell’s “Same Sex Unions”. Not since Boswell have I seen such drive to analyze primary texts. Crompton’s chapter on the story of Sodom and its mistaken use throughout history is simply superb. The country by country and century by century analysis of societies and notable historical figures is without par and a delight to read for anyone. Crompton’s contrast of the Christian west to the more civilized nations of the ea ...more
Mar 28, 2018 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: non-fiction
I'm giving up on this book. I was looking for a book that dealt with homosexuality throughout history, but this book seems to be a book that deals overwhelmingly with adult men who have sex with male children in history. I understand that it has historically been more accepted for adults to have sex with children (both male and female) than it is today, but my own personal history makes me particularly sensitive to not liking when this is equated with broader sexuality. For example, if there was ...more
Will Bellais
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: All graduate students
Well researched. The book covers 4,000 years of human activity. The lives and achievements (note achievements) of homosexuals through the centuries are chronicled. We are taken to the darker side of persecution and the bright spots in the history of gay men and women. I liked the writing style and the approach to an important subject -- to me.
Luis Alexandre Ribeiro Branco
It is quite an interesting book, helpful for those interested in knowing more about the homosexual's genesis. However, based on some misleading accounts I am not sure if one can rely on it as a secure historical data.
Aaron Thomas
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
This book has much to recommend it, but it is more of a compendium of a great of deal of research by many scholars - an attempt at an overview of the field - more than it is a history book with its own set of arguments and archives. In this way it is something a bit more akin to Ruth Mazzo Karras's Sexuality in Medieval Europe than it is to Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Crompton is attempting to bring together work such as Guido Ruggiero's writing on Renaissance Ve ...more
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, detailed, exhaustive account of same sex attraction in Ancient Greece and Rome, Christian West, China and Japan t

This is perhaps the best work available, exhaustive in detail and thorough in scope, that examines the status and treatment of homosexuality in the classical and Christian worlds, in China across two millennia, and in Japan between the years 750-1868. The scholarship at times seems beyond belief; this is a monumental achievement, written with a commitment to objectivity eve
Peter Walt
Mar 28, 2019 rated it really liked it

Before you let them talk at you.

Before they blame you for hurricanes and tornadoes and the fall of Rome. Before they call you fringe, and subversive, and outcast.

And begin to understand that Homosexuals play a disproportionate role in the development of society... and one step further... civilization.

This book should be required reading during or just after your coming out process. You have to understand that we are not alien to society, but an integral, even crucial part of it.

Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology, history
Thoroughly researched and densely academic, this book forms a decent overview of homosexuality as a concept and practice in the West and parts of the East for the last 4000 years. As other reviewers have mentioned, its attention to the sapphic side of homosexuality is a bright spot, but the absence of South/Central American, African, and many American (read: non-white) narratives is a disappointment.

That oversight aside, this is still an excellent work that covers a significant chunk of history
Yaotl Àltan
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
El autor investigó minuciosamente la historia de diversas civilizaciones para analizar la homosexualidad en cada una de ellas. Es un trabajo significativo que, sin embargo, no es pesada ni contiene un texto extremadamente "pesado" al leer. Sus ilustraciones son excelentes.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read-2018
From ancient Greece and Rome through to the Enlightenment, Crompton traces gay history through a myriad of civilizations, across continents and millenia. A fascinating study accompanied by a wealth of illustrations.
Jean Dickens
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a fantastic journey this book was!!!
Every single gay or straight should read it. It got all the historic elements for people who love it as well as the fascinating history of gay people. Highly recommend!!!!
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: dropped
Read 99 pages. Dropped the book because of its verbose narrative.
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Although there is still more research that needs to be done, Louis Crompton has done a brilliant job of taking what records there are from ancient Greece and Rome all the way to the 1800s when executions for the so-called crime of sodomy were effectively ended, and putting them in one book for the layman. It's a remarkable contrast how civilizations such as ancient Greece and Rome, as well as China and Japan - civilizations that came before the spread of Christianity or were so isolated until la ...more
Mar 02, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: students of history, LGBT readers
This book is an overview of homosexuality over various time periods and cultures, and its connections with other social trends. It's well written and well organized and fairly comprehensive, especially with respect to European history. However, it is very Eurocentric, devoting only one chapter to Asia and almost no space to Africa or the Americas. And the author is a firm proponent of essentialism, seeking mainly to find evidence in history that homosexuals have always been a distinct class of i ...more
Zach Waldis
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A must have for anyone interested in homosexuality. As someone who has read a number of books on the Biblical attitude towards same sex love and also Dover's book on Greek Homosexuality, this book tells the big picture. Though Crompton takes a pro-gay stance, he treats the sources judiciously. I don't think he gives Jesus' Jewish teaching on marriage enough credence, but that is forgivable considering the scope of the work.
Cemal Özenir
May 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very enlightening !!

For example King James I (i.e. King James Bible) was a flaming homo!!!

Ahhh, the joys of Christianity and what it has done to our civilization over the course of 2000 years. No offense intended to any of my Christian friends, but so much bigotry, hatred and malice - all in the name of God! Really, I don't think that was what was intended.
Nov 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer-studies
An excellent survey of the homosexual throughout (mostly Western) history. Though it requires a focused read, this compendium rewards the dutiful with a treasure trove of anecdotes that helps place our current struggles for equality on the timeline of human oppression.
Apr 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Great historical overview with critical analysis on homosexual relationships and the political/social/religious persecution of it. Very much based on European history with few chapters also focusing on China and Japan; would have liked to see more cultures represented.
Jul 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
an amazingly well researched exploration of "Homosexuality" and Civilization. I recommend this book to every single person who has ever had just a fleeting interest in sexuality and/or gender studies.
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading this book and I will probably read it again. I like the way it is laid out and the verbiage that was used.
Bryn Hammond
Jan 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-history
The most exhaustive history out, and I think excellent.
If you're upset by hideous tortures, beware: the tale gets bloody in Inquisition times.
Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Joey Capuana
Dec 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Thoroughly researched and remarkably interesting, this book is written with a great voice and fills in much of the West and Asia's often invisible homosexual history. Highly recommend.
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