Sex and the English Revolution

Samuel Fullerton
UC Riverside

This dissertation explores the development of new printed discourses of sex and the body during the English Revolution of 1642-1660. Ignited by the “print explosion” of the early 1640s, the appearance of explicit sexual rhetoric in print polemic was a novel step from the prewar period, when conversations about sex had been largely confined to manuscript and oral forms. The proliferation of sexual rhetoric, and particularly sexual slander, within the heightened polemical atmosphere of midcentury England was further invigorated by civil war and puritan moral reformation, and as a result sex soon became deeply entangled in the politics of revolution. Drawing on manuscript sources from nearly four dozen archives in Britain and the United States as well as thousands of contemporary printed texts, my project carefully traces the many ways in which the new sexual politics of midcentury England influenced the volatile political culture of the period. By the 1660 Stuart Restoration, it argues, sex was on its way to becoming a foundational element of modern Western political culture.