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“When was the first chat line between men established? Who was the first “lesbian”? Were ancient Greek men who had sex with each other necessarily “gay,” and what did Shakespeare think about crossdressing?

A Little Gay History answers these questions and more through close readings of art objects from the British Museum’s far-ranging collection. Consulting ancient Egyptian papyri, the Roman Warren Cup’s erotic figures, David Hockney’s vivid prints, and dozens of other artifacts, R. B. Parkinson draws attention to a diverse range of same-sex experiences and situates them within specific historical and cultural contexts. The first of its kind, A Little Gay History builds a complex and creative portrait of love’s many guises.”

I picked this book up on a whim at the library. The BPL had just gotten it in so I gave it a shot. I am not a fan of history so bear that in mind.

The book was short and mostly based on artifacts that have been found. For each part of history that was discussed there was a bowl, plate, statue, or other artifact recovered that was used as an example of being from that time period. It was a new way for me to conceptualize gay history, so while the artifacts did nothing for me visually it sort of solidified the time periods in my head.

While gay is often used to mean anyone not straight this book like so many others pretended to be all about the whole gay community but instead focused on gay men. There were a few artifacts about lesbians, but there were none on bisexuals or any other not straight identities. While this is disappointing, it is not unexpected.

Overall the book was informative and easy to read. It was in chronological order and very point blank. There were a few times where the book referenced later works or earlier works, but they were all works that were included in the book so there was not an expectation of previous knowledge on the subject. The book while it was a beginner book was not overly simplistic. It was a book that a range of experiences could enjoy.


4.5 out of 5 stars. I would give this book a 5 star rating if it had either completely ignore lesbians or had added more of them.

You can buy this book here.