Britain: Oblique Discourses Surrounding ‘Lesbic Love’

  • Chiara Beccalossi
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


British philosophical and scientific thinking had been enquiring into sexual matters since at least the end of the eighteenth century. In his Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), Thomas Robert Malthus rationalised and problematised procreative sexuality by linking it to economic and social issues. His main argument was that populations tend to multiply faster than the means required for their sustenance. The inevitable misery that would ensue could be avoided through sexual moderation: people should postpone marriage until they could support a family, and single people were expected to be strictly celibate. Although couples should not have many children, Malthus discouraged the use of artificial methods to limit reproduction because he considered them a ‘vice’.1 Charles Darwin’s The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) reinforced the idea that sexual instincts were closely related to human developments. Paving the way for the study of sexual instincts as a‘natural’ phenomenon, Darwin raised sexual impulse to the status of driving force in human evolution, and contended that man has two main instincts: self-preservation and gratification of the sexual instinct.2 In some instances, members of the same species will fight each other to secure mates, rather than for food or living space.3


Psychological Medicine British Physician Lunatic Asylum Italian Psychiatrist Sexual Inversion 
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Copyright information

© Chiara Beccalossi 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chiara Beccalossi
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for the History of European DiscoursesUniversity of QueenslandAustralia

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