Sexual Nonconformism

Peter Laslett

  • Wanton Wenches and Wayward Wives: Peasants and Illicit Sex in Early 17th Century England by G.R. Quaife
    Croom Helm, 283 pp, £11.50, July 1980, ISBN 0 7099 0062 7
  • A History of Myddle by Richard Gough, edited by Peter Razzell
    Caliban, 184 pp, £9.00, October 1980, ISBN 0 904573 14 1

We are apt to think of authoritarianism in emotional and sexual life as pre-eminently Victorian. It was an outcome, we tend to believe – if indeed we think of it historically at all – of the unrelenting imposition of middle-class conformism on the easier, opener attitudes of the English peasantry. ‘Earthy’ is the word we most often use of the way the peasants carried on. But listen to this:

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