James I of England was not a homosexual

Philip Ferguson plf13 at SPAMit.canterbury.ac.nz
Mon Dec 4 14:52:53 MST 2000

Lou Pr posted a review of a book on James I by Michael Young.

Young, and his reveiwer's ahistorical/anachronistic method is evident in
the following piece of the review:

>Historians of homosexuality have tended to
>argue, to the contrary, that contemporary perceptions of intimate male
>relationships were limited to the physical act of sodomy, something
>considered so 'monstrous' that it was not to be spoken of or even
>acknowledged, pervasive as it may have been. Professor Young argues against
>this view, suggesting that while seventeenth century commentators may have
>lacked the vocabulary and the constructs necessary to articulate a
>sophisticated view of homosexuality, they were nonetheless well aware of
>its existence and were more than willing to comment upon it.

Odd that they 'lacked the vocabulary and the constructs necessary. . .'

What seventeenth century commentators commented on was James' involvement
in same-sex activities.  But they never described him as a homosexual.  It
did not exist as a category.  Young gets around this thorny problem by
simply conflating same-sex sexual activities and homosexuality, ie by
anachronistically reading back a nineteenth and twentieth century category
and consciousness within industrial capitalist society onto a seventeenth
century, pre-industrial society.  He and the reviewer seem to think that if
you use the word 'homosexuality' enough in relation to James I, people
won't think critically about the *historical nature* of the catgeory.

Perhaps Professor Young also believes that means of production were
automatically capital in early modern society in Britain or that feudal
barons exacting tribute and labour from peasants possessed 'capital',
despite 'lacking the vocabulary and constructs necessary to articulate'

I also wonder why Young picks on James I as the turning point.  There were
plenty of English kings much earlier who rampantly engaged in same-sex
activities which wree quite well-known at the time and have been handed
down in history - Edward II springs to mind, for instance, and he was back
in the thirteenth century.

Young's book sounds like a very good example of how mainstream academic
historians dehistoricise everything.  It is how the bourgeoisie thinks.

Philip Ferguson

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