The Sexual Offences Act 1967. Part 2: Wolfenden’s silent women

On 27 July 2017, The National Archives held a day of talks to mark the 50th anniversary of the royal assent of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales.

In this recording, Caroline Derry looks at how the Wolfenden committee (whose 1957 report laid the ground work for the passing of the Sexual Offences Act) barely mentioned women and instead focussed almost exclusively on homosexual men.

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The Sexual Offences Act 1967. Part 1: The lives of men from 1953 to the 1967 Act

On 27 July 2017, The National Archives held a day of talks to mark the 50th anniversary of the royal assent of the Sexual Offences Act 1967, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality in England and Wales.

In this recording, Sammy Sturgess discusses the lives of gay men in London in the lead up to the 1967 Act: from legal rights and social spaces, to employment and living arrangements.

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Sexuality under scrutiny in 1930s Soho

In 1934, homosexual acts between men – in public and in private – were illegal in the UK. Police surveilled a number of social spaces across London suspected of permitting what the state then considered to be ‘immoral activity’ and in August conducted a raid on a venue in Soho called the Caravan Club. Possessions such as cosmetics and personal correspondence were confiscated from attendees and later offered as evidence in court.

Vicky Iglikowski, The National Archives’ Diverse History Records Specialist, discusses the content and context of a love letter found in the Caravan on that evening, and considers the difficult position it occupies now as both an important piece of LGBT history and a document that wasn’t intended for publication.

This podcast was produced as part of a series where archivists talk about the documents they think you should know about. You can view the rest of the series here.

Music:

‘Sam, the Old Accordian Man’ by the Williams Sisters

‘Night Latch Key Blues’ by Virginia Liston

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Oscar Wilde’s trial and imprisonment – a short play

This short play explores the trial and imprisonment of Oscar Wilde. In 1895 the celebrated author and playwright was found guilty of gross indecency and sentenced to two years imprisonment, with hard labour. The words are taken directly from records held by The National Archives, particularly the petition that Wilde made to the Home Secretary seeking early release, and letters written about him to the governor of Reading Gaol.

This play was first performed as part of The National Archives;’ Victorian Crime night in October 2016 and was subsequently performed as part of ‘Museums Showoff’, ‘OUTing the Past Festival’ and a ‘Queer and the State’ event. Find out here how we brought Oscar Wilde’s words to life.

By Caroline Osborne-James

Cast (in order of appearance):

  • Narrator: Lucy Fletcher
  • Oscar Wilde: Gary Thorpe
  • John Sholto Douglas (Marquess of Queensbury): Kevin Chambers
  • Lily Wilde: Fleur Soper
  • Chaplain: Liz Bryant
  • An Irishwoman: Clarissa Angus
  • More Adey: Jon Ryder-Oliver
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Bombs, bulls and civilian bravery

In this podcast The National Archives’ Principal Military Specialist reveals some of his favourite stories about civilian gallantry from the First and Second World Wars, from the bravery of the youngest recipient of the George medal to a bizarre tale involving a bomb and some table tennis bats.

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‘A Bit of a Scratch’, a radio drama about the battle against Venereal Disease during the First World War

‘A Bit of a Scratch’ explores the first recorded prosecution under the Venereal Diseases Act 1917. The legislation was introduced due to the large numbers, roughly 5%, of UK troops returning from the First World War with venereal diseases and to ensure that treatment was undertaken by qualified medical professionals. The last century has seen remarkable developments in sexual health, however with rising numbers of sexually transmitted infections and the emergence of antimicrobial resistant disease, the provision of high quality sexual health services are more important than ever.

This podcast was produced jointly with the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH). More information on the issues contained within this podcast can be found on the BASHH website and @BASHH_UK.

By: Debbie Manship

Cast (in order of appearance):

  • Narrator: Stephen McGann
  • Billy: Louis Cardona
  • Edie: Lowri Amies
  • Chemist: David Jarvis
  • Doctor: Peter Wickham
  • All other parts were played by members of the cast.
  • Composer: Chris Madin
  • Studio Engineer: Holly Parris
  • Director: Paul Dawson

Produced by Role Call and iD Audio in association with M & F Health Communications”The British Army’s fight against Venereal Disease in the ‘Heroic Age of Prostitution'” by Richard Marshall is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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Medieval treason and magic

In this podcast, two of our records specialists tell us about treason and necromancy in The National Archives’ medieval records.

The first part, narrated by Paul Dryburgh, tells the story of a band of men from Coventry who planned to kill King Edward II and his supporters, the Despencers, with a plot that involved wax effigies and pins. In the second part, Sean Cunningham discusses one of the earliest English language statements in legal history; a tale involving a mole catcher and a magical dismembered hand.

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‘Dadland’: the father who was also an undercover guerrilla agent

Keggie Carew discusses her book ‘Dadland’, a story about a madcap English childhood, the poignant breakdown of a family, and dementia. The novel centres upon her father Tom Carew, an enigmatic, unorthodox character, who was an undercover guerrilla agent during the Second World War.

‘Dadland’ is the winner of the Costa Biography Award 2016 and a Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller.

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Black British politics and the anti-apartheid struggle

In 1948, from the introduction of apartheid in South Africa, racial discrimination galvanized the international community into protest. British people and black communities in particular attempted to lead the global opposition against apartheid.

Historian Dr Elizabeth Williams (Goldsmiths, University of London) will discuss aspects of the documents she looked at while writing her book ‘The Politics of Race in Britain and South Africa: Black British Solidarity and the Apartheid Struggle’ (2015).

Please note, due to a technical error this recording ended a few minutes prior to the end of the talk.

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From the Somme to Arras

Andrew Lock discusses the progress made by the British Expeditionary Forces between the battles of the Somme (1916) and Arras (1917). Although lessons were learned during the Somme campaign, Arras clearly exposed command and preparation deficiencies, leading to setbacks and the highest casualty rate of any British offensive in the war.

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