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Christianity, Social Tolerance, and…

Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western… (1980)

by John Boswell

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8691015,923 (4.38)7
"Truly groundbreaking work. Boswell reveals unexplored phenomena with an unfailing erudition."—Michel Foucault John Boswell's National Book Award-winning study of the history of attitudes toward homosexuality in the early Christian West was a groundbreaking work that challenged preconceptions about the Church's past relationship to its gay members—among them priests, bishops, and even saints—when it was first published twenty-five years ago. The historical breadth of Boswell's research (from the Greeks to Aquinas) and the variety of sources consulted make this one of the most extensive treatments of any single aspect of Western social history. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, still fiercely relevant today, helped form the disciplines of gay and gender studies, and it continues to illuminate the origins and operations of intolerance as a social force.… (more)



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History of the attitudes toward homosexuality in the Christian West from the beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century.
  Lake_Oswego_UCC | Jun 11, 2017 |
The conclusions of this book are now controversial, but when I read it, it opened up a whole new world to me. Before reading this book, I had thought of cultures as being fairly uniform and ideas changing only over time. This made me aware that people in different circumstances can think about things very differently and that your willingness to be tolerant might have to do with your social circumstances. This informed much of my reading from then on. ( )
  aulsmith | Apr 18, 2014 |
Interesting historical analysis claiming that recent religious intolerant attitudes towards homosexuality are only a recent invention and that the prevailing attitude, even among the early Catholic church itself, was one of tacit tolerance, following with Roman attitudes of the time. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
In his conclusion to Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexuality, John Boswell states that as such little work had been done on this topic before—which, at the time of this book's publication was certainly true—"the writer on this subject cannot hope to avoid leading his readers down many wrong paths or, occasionally, coming to a dead end", and begs the reader's forbearance in the hopes that future scholars will build on his work. From the perspective of several decades later, both Boswell's hopes and fears have been realised, to varying extents.

Many younger scholars were inspired by his writings, and much work has been produced on the history of gender and sexuality since Boswell's death. Yet a lot of that scholarship has pushed back against CSTH, critiquing his analytical categories and terminology and his use of source material. They're criticisms which I share—the idea of a longue durée gay and/or homosexual cultural identity which he presents here is problematic, US-centric and presentist, women are almost entirely absent (and no, his statement that there simply aren't the sources doesn't really hold water any more), and at times Boswell's use of sources is highly frustrating. Often he seems to read them in the way which bests supports his thesis, and as Boswell was an out gay man who was also a devout convert to Catholicism and wished to both argue for the validity of his sexual orientation and of his place within the church, this requires a lot of inconsistency and contortions on his part. Still, it would be churlish to deny the enormity of Boswell's achievement in helping to pioneer a new area of study, the importance of some of the things he points to here, or the bravery it took to be so open about his sexuality. For that CSTH is still worth reading. ( )
1 vote siriaeve | Jan 12, 2013 |
Best work of social history I've read. ( )
  ssrosa | Apr 16, 2012 |
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