The Facts of Life

The Creation of Sexual Knowledge in Britain, 1650-1950
Porter, Roy
Hall, Lesley
Date published: 
January 1995

This remarkable study presents the first detailed and scholarly analysis of the creation of sexual knowledge in Britain. Surveying the period between the late seventeenth and the mid-twentieth centuries, it examines the major texts which established and authorised sexual knowledge and sexual practices. Porter and Hall then explore the various kinds of backgrounds without which these texts are unintelligible - sexual, moral, religious, scientific, medical, domestic, social and cultural. And they examine their authors - some famous, some obscure, some anonymous. The book also attempts to assess the wider impact of the publication of sexual knowledge and especially of sex advice literature, and explores the interplay between expertise, therapy, social mores and behaviour. The Facts of Life reveals in greater detail than ever before the formation of sexual discourses in Britain. It seeks to challenge and overturn received assumptions and to engage with powerful historiographical traditions, not least the work of Michel Foucault, and hoary myths of the Victorians. And it sets our understanding of the history of British sexuality on a sound footing for the first time.