‘I never knew there was so much in it!‘ This was how Dr Evan Harris, MP for Oxford West & Abingdon at the time, began his foreword to the first (printed) edition of Queer Oxford in 2006.
As it turns out, nobody involved in the project back then knew quite how much was ‘in it’! Whilst many may know that Oscar Wilde attended Magdalen College, or that Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel Brideshead Revisited (1945) was founded on his experiences at Hertford College during the early 1920s, the depth and breadth of the queer experience in Oxford is only now being recognised and appreciated.
Since the original Queer Oxford (which is, unfortunately, sold out), I have continued to research Oxford’s rich and diverse LGBTQ+ history and now have a considerable amount of material that I aim to share, as and when I can, on this site and via other platforms.
I was inspired to create this online edition of Queer Oxford by the brilliant Queer Localities conference at Birkbeck, University London (30 November-1 December 2017). I was delighted to be part of this event, presenting a paper on queer experiences in 1930s Oxford. Two other delegates presented Oxford-related papers showing just how much our great city has to offer this important and rapidly-growing area of LGBTQ+ history.
This coming autumn will see the first queer-themed exhibition at the Ashmolean, No Offence: Exploring LGBTQ+ Histories. I am currently in the process of curating a new app-based trail showcasing six centuries of local queer history and heritage to accompany the exhibition. This trail will build on the success of Out in Oxford, an LGBTQ+ trail of Oxford University’s gardens, libraries, and museums curated by Beth Asbury. Both Out in Oxford and the new exhibition were inspired by the pioneering work of Richard Bruce Parkinson, Professor of Egyptology at Oxford University and author of A Little Gay History: Desire and Diversity across the World (2013). Like this website, the new Queer Oxford trail encompasses the entirety of Oxford, town and gown, as an important hub of LGBTQ+ life and culture, past and present. For more information, watch this space!
Queer Oxford is a work in progress and much remains to be done. I welcome constructive feedback, particularly info on the people, places, and events that are not yet currently represented on the site.
About me: I am primarily a historian of science and medicine. I completed my BA in History at Oxford Brookes University in 2010. In 2016 I returned to study the MA in History of Medicine and have now progressed to doctoral level. My project is entitled Evolution’s Closet: The New Biology and Homosexuality in Britain, 1885-1967. I have lived and worked in Oxford most of my life. Researching local LGBTQ+ history has been my leading hobby since 2005.
Follow me on Twitter @rossb_oxford and, for more on over six centuries of Oxford’s queer history, @Queer_Oxford.