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Drawing on a wide range of historical sources - court records, newspaper reports, medical records, vels, oral histories and personal papers - A Lesbian History of Britain presents the extraordinary history of lesbian experience in Britain. Covering landmark moments and well-kwn personalities (such as Radclyffe Hall and the publication and banning of her lesbian vel The Well of Loneliness), but also examining the lives and experiences of ordinary women, it brings both variety and nuance to their shared history. In doing so, it also explores cultural representations of, and changing attitudes to, female same-sex desire in Britain. The narrative is arranged chrologically and begins with the accounts of a number of women in the 18th century who passed themselves off as men. The C18th & C19th saw 'Romantic Friendships' between women and, later, the emergence of a science of sexuality, and the concept of the female 'sexual invert . At the same time, 'New Women' were pursuing independent careers, a self-confidence reflected in the publication of a number of vels explicitly about lesbian experience. The 20s and 30s were characterised by parliamentary debates on lesbianism, court cases and scandals, though, with two world wars, lesbian experiences were already changing, and a newly vibrant lesbian 'scene', centred on bars and night-clubs, was emerging, supported by a growing number of lesbian-oriented magazines and societies. The contemporary period has been marked by political movements and campaigns, in which lesbians have been active, and increasingly vocal debates surrounding the 'sex wars'.
Dr. Rebecca Jennings is a Research Fellow in the Modern History department at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. She has taught and researched modern British lesbian and womens history at the University of Manchester and her book, Tomboys and Bachelor Girls: A lesbian history of post-war Britain, 1945-71 was published in 2007. She is currently living in Sydney and working on a new project exploring the history of lesbian migration.