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Inaugural Lecture with Professor Matthew Seligmann

The Royal Navy's secret campaign against "unnatural crime" 1911 – 1915

Leading Naval historian Professor Matthew Seligmann will be taking us on a journey of how he uncovered one of the secrets of Churchill’s pre-First World War Navy. Between 1911 and 1914 the Royal Navy devised a confidential new policy for identifying and prosecuting homosexual activity among sailors. It involved new means of acquiring evidence and the revival of archaic legal formulas that, it was hoped, would enable a wide range of activities to be criminalised successfully. The policy did not initially work as anticipated, but after a few years of trial, error and adaption, it produced an upsurge in successful prosecutions for so-called 'unnatural' crimes. The secret history of this three year campaign against homosexuality will be outlined for the first time in this lecture.

 About the speaker

 Matthew S. Seligmann is Professor of Naval History and Head of the division of Politics and History at Brunel University London. He has written extensively on the Anglo-German antagonism before and during the First World War with particular emphasis on the naval and intelligence dimensions to this rivalry. Recent books include The Naval Route to the Abyss. The Anglo-German Naval Race, 1895-1914 (2015), Military Intelligence from Berlin 1906-1914 (2014), The Royal Navy and the German Threat, 1901-1914: Admiralty Plans to protect British Trade in a War against Germany (2012), Naval Intelligence from Germany: The Reports of the British Naval Attachés in Berlin, 1906-1914 (2007) and Spies in Uniform: British Military and Naval Intelligence on the Eve of the First World War (2006). His latest book, Rum, Sodomy, Prayers, and the Lash Revisited: Winston Churchill and Social Reform in the Royal Navy, 1900-1915 will be published by Oxford University Press in June 2018.

Doors open from 5:30pm.  Light refreshments will be available following the lecture.