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Peek beneath the bedsheets of Stuart Britain in this frank, informative, and captivating look at the sexual lives of the peoples of the British Isles between 1603 and 1714. Popular Stuart historian Andrea Zuvich, “The Seventeenth Century Lady”, explores our ancestors’ ingenious, surprising, bizarre, and often entertaining beliefs and solutions to the challenges associated with maintaining a healthy sex life, along with the prevailing attitudes towards male and female sexual behaviour. The author sheds light not only on the saucy love lives of the Royal Stuarts, but also on the dark underbelly of the Stuart era with histories of prostitution, sexual violence, infanticide, and sexual deviance.
• What was considered sexually attractive in Stuart Britain?
• At which ages would people be old enough for marriage?
• What were the penalties for adultery, incest, and fornication?
• How did Stuart-era peoples deal with infertility, sexually-transmitted illnesses, and child mortality?
Find out the answers to these questions - and more - as fashion, food, science, art, medicine, magic, literature, love, politics, faith and superstition of the day are all examined, leaving the reader with a new regard for the ingenuity and character of our seventeenth and early eighteenth-century ancestors.
Featured inThe Essex Family Historian - Journal of The Essex Society for Family History - August 2021
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Rekha O'Sullivan
This is such an interesting book and, though academic and well-researched, is easy to read. I learned so much - some of it a bit gross, like puppy dog water being used to make oneself beautiful.
And no, puppy dog water isn't what you think - it's far worse.
I found it so interesting how the concept of beauty seemed to be based around indolence and indulgence and that so many of the celebrated beauties of the age looked nearly identical.
I learned about what happened to the 'camp followers' after the Battle of Naseby and Methven, a story that will stay with me for a long time.
Women like Aphra Behn, Celia Fiennes and Susan Hyde were mentioned briefly and I am looking forward to learning more about them.
And of course Queen Anne and her 'Favourites' were covered - very enlightening.
Well worth a read if, like me, you know a lot about the more popular Tudor history and not much about Stuart history - it's just as compelling a period.
"I would unreservedly recommend this."Stephen Ede-Borrett, The Pike and Shot Society
As featured on the Royal Reviewer YouTube channelRoyal Reviewer
Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain by Andrea Zuvich is a wonderful study of the bedroom exploits of the Stuart dynasty of the seventeenth century. Andrea Zuvich examines all aspects of Stuart sexual life, from attitudes to rape and pornography, to the notions of love and marriage. Zuvich also looks at the lives of the Stuart monarchs, examining the rumours around them, the various mistress and lovers and the perceptions they gave to their people and to history. This is a truly fascinating study of a part of life that is important to all of us – and necessary for our continued existence – but so rarely talked about. Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain is so much more than a study of sexual practices in Stuart Britain, it also analyses the effects of child mortality, the dangers of childbirth. It also looks at the seedier side of society, such as infanticide and sexually transmitted diseases.HISTORY… THE INTERESTING BITS!
Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain is fascinating! It is a book that needed to be written and provides a wonderful contrast to the usual books on Stuart Britain, which concentrate on the Civil Wars, rather than the lives, loves and desires of the people. Andrea Zuvich has written a marvelous study of Stuart attitudes towards sex and sexuality, leaving no stone unturned to give the reader a comprehensive view of Stuart life, including the legal, social and personal aspects and implications.
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Andrea Zuvich combines a passion for History with a lively scholarship that she wears lightly – so her books are a joy, blending fascinating topics and characters with a wonderfully digestible style.Charles Spencer, November 2020
"Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain" offers 28 delectable chapters explaining every aspect of sexual lives of people living in the Stuart period. The author skilfully shows what life was like with an eye to delightfully interesting details. Andrea Zuvich has a wonderful understanding of life in the 17th century (she's the @17thCenturyLady after all!) and gives credible information about the meaning of sex and sexuality in Stuart Britain.GoodReads, Constant Reader
This is an academic look behind the closed doors. Zuvich discusses everything from erotic literature of the Stuart period through prostitution, premarital sex, fornication, gender roles, methods of contraception, deviant sexual practices to reproduction, rape, abortion and other topics.
My favourite part was the discussion of sexuality & intimate health of the Stuart monarchs from James I to Queen Anne.
I highly recommend this title to everyone interested in the Stuart history but also everyone who would like to learn more about sex in the past.
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As someone who has long been interested in the seventeenth century, Sex and Sexuality was an absolute delight. Whilst the subject can, of course, raise more than a few blushes, Zuvich approaches it with a tangible respect. She is a wonderfully frank author, never shying away from the crude or the ghastly. Not once does she let the book trip over its own content... With meticulous research and a refreshing style of writing, Zuvich has crafted a book that is both informative and enjoyable. Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain is a fantastic read, and one I highly recommend.DJChronicle
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This book is very well researched and written by the author Andrea Zuvich, this book is more academic in my opinion that the last book about this subject. But I wouldn’t say it was too academic, there is still a good balance between light and heavy. I’m also going to say that I just liked the book because of the way it was written, it had a nice flow throughout it. I would say that this is a fascinating book which keeps you learning all along, it’s a book everyone can read and learn from. There is also a n excellent bibliography and notes section towards the back that will greatly help those wishing to read further on the subject. This is a book I would happily recommend and endorse.UK Historian
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This is an in-depth look at all aspects of the sexual lives of the people of Stuart Britain. Absolutely fascinating!Books Monthly
Well-researched, well-written, entertaining, and immersive. I wasn't sure if I'll enjoy it but thanks to the authors' knack for delivering non-fiction in an easy way, I devoured the book. Plenty of anecdotes, curious discoveries, and reveals about Stuarts times. Well worth a read.NetGalley, Łukasz Przywóski
It's a well researched, detailed and entertaining book that made me learn a lot of new things enjoying what I read.NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso
I liked the style of writing and how the book is organised.
The royal court of Stuart England was definitely not boring - or consistent - where sexual mores were concerned, from the relatively dissolute court of James I to the more sedate one of his son, Charles I, and then, after the interregnum Cromwell's Puritan Commonwealth, veering wildly back to the notorious excesses of Charles II and his intimates. While all this was happening in the aristocracy and upper classes, however, apart from stricter laws and public policy during the Commonwealth that affected them, the lives - and sex lives - of the ordinary people went on with relatively little upheaval.NetGalley, Leslie Jaszczak
In the first part of Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain, Andrea Zuvich gives the interested reader a lively and informative guide through all strata of society where all aspects of sexuality are concerned, from marriage and divorce to prostitution, STDs, attitudes about pre- and extramarital sex, same-sex attraction, and pedophilia, to name a few. Spiced with anecdotes about people of all classes (often from court records), she portrays a society that in many ways had surprisingly modern attitudes about sex, while in other ways they seem to us to be incredibly backward. For instance, it was believed that a woman's pleasure was important in conceiving a healthy child, with the unfortunate flip side (occasionally voiced even in our own day) that if a woman became pregnant she could not have been raped. Even the Puritans, however, had a surprisingly healthy attitude towards sex in general, as long as it was kept within the bounds of matrimony.
In the second part of the book, Zuvich examines the sex lives of the Stuart monarchs themselves, which offer a great deal of material. While concluding that James I was almost certainly bisexual at the very least, she finds the rumors of same-sex relationships about the last three (William III, Mary II, and Anne) unlikely to have been true, and of course Charles II, with his many mistresses and illegitimate children, provides a lot of grist for the mill.
All in all, I found this book to be a fascinating portrait of the times, carefully footnoted but narrated in an entertaining manner that keeps the interest of the educated layperson.
Zuvich's book is an absolute treasure. Packed full of fascinating facts, scandalous snippets and tantalising tidbits. Thoroughly researched from a wealth of sources, this is a complete delve into sex and sexuality in the Stuart era at home and abroad.GoodReads, Sarah Watkins
The book is split into two parts. The first covers everything from adultery to infanticide, prostitution to the Stuart libertine. The second part charts the reigns of the Stuart monarchs from a sexuality perspective.
This one is going to stay on my reference bookshelf for years to come. Not just highly recommended but required reading for anyone interested in this period.
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A superbly researched non-fiction that provides insightful information on everything you would like to know about body and sex under the Stuarts and have never had courage to ask about.NetGalley, Beata B. Reviewer
Part one is devoted to detailed descriptions regarding the body and sexuality, including some information that may be disturbing to some readers. Having said that, I would like to add that the details are written in a most respectful manner. Part two focuses on the Stuarts themselves and is interesting as it uncovers and explains sexual behaviour of the monarchs and their relatives. Some of the information was new to me as the subject matter is not ususally so deeply analyzed in books on the Stuarts.
The book offers a unique approach and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the period and would like to learn more about how the most intimate sphere of life was perceived in those days.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Michelle Louise
Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain is the kind of history book I adore. It's filled with fascinating tidbits and anecdotes which really give a sense of time and place.
The book covers a wide variety of topics, more topics than I thought possible, and includes things that are related to sex but aren't immediately obvious -- like witchcraft. From pre-maritial sex, to infamous women/men, to the terminology of the day. The book covers the gamut.
One of my favorite sections was early on where the author went into a very frank and historical description of what the Stuart era Britons found attractive. This included a that many women often wore special wigs which were called merkins on their private parts if they for some reason didn't have pubic hair. But that the art reasons for the day didn't include it, not because it wasn't attractive, but for aesthetic reasons. I also loved the part where it went into how a woman's enjoyment of the marriage bed was equally important to a man's pleasure. There's really so many good anecdotes peppered with selections from various primary resources.
So many primary resources. And not just Pepys, although he is used, but Pepys is not venerated unlike in so many other books on the Stuart Era. Pepys is presented as he is... a great diarist to be sure, but also his vices as well. I did not know that Pepys had wandering hands so problematic that while in church women would threaten to stab him with pins if he didn't stop groping them. Yeah. Good to know.
Who would I recommend this book to: Anyone who is intrigued by sexual mores of the different time periods. I triply recommend it to anyone who is interested in writing in the Stuart era. This particularly applies to romance authors who dabble in the late Elizabethan through the early Georgian Period. The period-appropriate terminology alone is worth it. But it also includes so many other useful things.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I definitely will be re-reading it and recommending it.
This was a romp interesting book about a seldom talked about or written about subject that is nevertheless a driving force throughout history.NetGalley, Heather Bennett
This book provides a vivid overview of what people in the Stuart period enjoyed and also suffered when it came to sex. The author presents a broad spectrum of topics from marriage and adultery to infertility and incest and a lot more. When it came to sex, the people of 17th century Britain had to deal with STDs, superstitions and magic, lack of medical care, contraception and drastic punishment.NetGalley, Anja Kwiatkowski
The first part of the book deals with all these aspects of every day sexual life, always accompanied by their own voices, e.g. Samuel Pepys.
The second part focusses on the sex life of the Stuart royalty, which reminded me a lot of modern tabloids and their obsession with the sex lives of the rich and famous... overall this book is highly entertaining and well structured, a good starting point into the history of 17th century sexuality.
I really enjoyed this book. The Stuart period is one of my favourites, and it often gets ignored for its Tudor predecessor. I will fully admit, sex and sexuality is not a common topic of study for me, but I learned a lot through this book. Sex does play a role in society and culture, and Zuvich examines it from many angles. I appreciated that she included several marginalised groups including LGBTQ* and BIPOC people (by period terminology).NetGalley, Jessica Storoschuk
It is quite easy reading. There are many primary sources quoted throughout the book, but it doesn't slow it down/make for difficult reading. There are some funny and interesting drawings and carvings that were included, which I think helped making it approachable and accessible to everyone (not just historians). Overall, an excellent read!
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Deborah Swift
This is a fabulous book, not only about Stuart Sexuality, but also about how attitudes to sexuality affect everything else to do with Stuart life. The text not only covers things like pornography and prostitution, virginity and contraception, but also includes broader sections on courtship and marriage, on dress, hair and make up, on relationships in the Stuart age -- including what we know about the sort of relationships which were then taboo. As you might expect, it really highlights how little we have changed, for sexual relationships of all types are represented, including some that might make your toes curl! Zuvich doesn't hold back - all the language of the day is here, so this is not a book for the easily offended. The discussions are frank, knowledgeable, and written with a light touch.
The book takes the form of episodic snatches, with many original quotations from contemporary sources, but one thing I particularly enjoyed was the fact the book has interesting sections on the different monarchs and how their attitudes to sex affected the whole country.
All in all, an excellent book, and although I received a kindle ARC for review, a hard copy certainly deserves a spot on my bookshelf.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Holly Gillum (Librarian)
Absolutely fascinating! My staff and I are "Outlander" fans and being able to apply this to what we have read and know about the Stuart reign was delightful. We loved it!
This was so much fun to read. The chapters were relatively short. Part One covers everything you might want to know about sex and sexuality in this time period, covering LGBTQ+ (although not called that to keep with period accurate terminology), race, gender, etc topics. It was expansive and I loved it. The second part of the book talks about the Stuart rulers and their sex lives, which was just as fun to read about. Honestly, a great book! I'd definitely have this finished copy on my shelf.NetGalley, Caidyn Young
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsSimon Kleinig
Andrea Zuvich has put together a book which is unique and revelatory. Writing history can be a difficult undertaking requiring a lot of research and commitment. The result can often be a ponderous assembly of facts meticulously and painstakingly put together by the author, but as dry as dust to the reader. Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain is NOT one of those books. The author has successfully combined close research with an attractive and sparklingly clear writing style which is both explanatory and appealing.
This is no voyeuristic dalliance. All subjects are addressed by the author with refreshing candour and without exception. There are no sacred cows here. This is a lively and fascinating story of humanity to which we can all relate. From the perspective of the 21st century it is easy to think we have taken sex and sexuality to new levels. Wrong. Andrea Zuvich’s book makes it crystal-clear the Stuarts were doing it all nearly 400 years ago!
This interesting period has been closely researched and written about by many historians. Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain makes an important and valuable contribution to that store of knowledge. Backed up with hard research, it should be required reading for anyone wishing to look more closely at that period. And for the casual reader, this book will at once inform and surprise with its rare combination of fact, humour and colour that is hard to find in this genre. Highly recommended.
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Rating: 5 out 5 starsToni Mount
When asked to review Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a book on this specific topic. I discovered that Andrea Zuvich writes in a style that is both reader-friendly, without any academic-speak, yet the book is obviously deeply researched through extensive use of original source material.
Part 1 deals with Stuart society’s changing attitudes to sex and sexuality throughout the period by exploring letters, diaries, drama, poetry and a variety of literary forms. I was interested particularly by the documentary material derived from the North American Colonies – a source of which I was previously unaware that would warrant further research and familiarisation here in the UK. As a commentary on Stuart morals and mores, this section is worthy of being read by any social historian. Part 2 looks at the proclivities of the individual Stuart monarchs and prominent figures of the Interregnum, revealing how these preferences impacted – or not – on their private lives and the overall stability of the monarchy. This section will appeal more to readers intrigued by the personal relationships of British kings and queens.
I found the book fascinating to read. With a comprehensive index and detailed referencing, its credentials as a scholarly work are excellent. For those wishing to study further texts on allied subjects, the extensive bibliography provides a wealth of other sources and reference material.
A tricky subject, Andrea Zuvich deals with it admirably in a down-to-earth, no-nonsense manner. Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain is to be very highly recommended from the perspectives of both social and more general history, as well as being quite simply ‘a good read’ for the popular history market.
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Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Barbara Schuur
How did people have sex in Stuart Britain? Same as us of course. Only if they got an STD there were no antibiotics to help them out. One of the reasons they wore wigs, aside from male pattern baldness, was because of syphilis. They also believed coffee caused impotence. They had no reliable birth control (though they tried) and c sections weren't a thing due to a lack of anesthesia so women died in droves due to childbirth. There was no deodorant and a lack of clean water, sanitation, and soap so body odor was a problem as we're rotten teeth. Yet, they loved sex and this book goes into the many aspects of sex and family practices as the two are tied together and that makes for an interesting book and an even more interesting afternoon and evening reading about it. The author keeps it light, interesting, straightforward, and historical. No embarrassment or pornography. The fascinating tidbits are endless and if you are interested in Stuart Britain this book is a good fun read for a change from the heavier tomes of history one usually finds to read. Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in exchange for a review.
The book is definitely thorough. I don't think there's an aspect of sexuality that hasn't been covered. It also serves as a great spring board for finding out more about the subject as many contemporary sources are mentioned that you can go away and read for yourself. It's written with a sense of humour too, which helps break down the stiffness (sorry) and awkwardness of discussing the ins and outs (sorry again) of the sex lives of the Stuarts.Love British History
Interested? Of course you are. Who wouldn't be?
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Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Jo Romero
I really enjoyed this book. I think we all have this kind of curiosity about sex and sexuality in past times, and how it was potentially different to what we experience today. I found the book really thorough and the author dealt with the subject with a sense of humour, which was great. I feel I have a better understanding of part of history that is not often discussed - we're often wrapped up in the politics of an age, and so to learn more about such a 'human' subject that is relevant to all layers of society was really eye-opening. I feel like I know much more about our Stuart ancestors now, after reading the book!
“So, get your tankard of cock ale, sit back in your cane chair by the crackling fire, and as the smells of wood smoke and tobacco from a nearby pipe mingle with the hearty scent of freshly baked pigeon pie wafting in from next door, let us go back in time to the Stuart period…”NetGalley, Émilie Weidl
In this book, Zuvich tracks the macro-trends in sex and sexuality in Stuart-era Britain, using examples of real people to provide touching or hilarious illustrations thereof. She discusses the opinions of the general population towards various forms of then-considered “deviant” sexual practices, various aspects of motherhood, lust, and love. This book reminded me vividly of the Love exhibition that I was able to see at the Louvre Lens a couple of years ago, where examples of graphic pornography from this era were on display for those willing to look. In the second part of the book, Zuvich briefly examines the sexual lives of the various Stuart monarchs (as well as Oliver Cromwell in the interregnum period).
Zuvich’s voice is fresh and witty. I laughed out loud multiple times while reading this, which is very high praise coming from me. While I found her use of exclamation points a bit too liberal at various points in the book, this only served to highlight her enthusiasm and thorough knowledge of the material. This book was a broad overview of the period. It would not serve to make anyone an expert on Stuart era sexual politics, but serves as an excellent introduction to the era and a highly amusing read... I would still recommend this book to anyone interested in giggling over the many oddities of the Stuart era British.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Ashley Davis
EVERYTHING I WANTED TO KNOW BUT DIDNT WANT TO ASK. So many things. Definitely for the curious history buff. Loved all the new information! Who knew. Thank you for this!
This was an incredibly fun historical read. I have always been fascinated by the sexual history of the past. What were people really like? What were people’s sex lives ? What were the mores? This book does a great job putting the Stuart era of England into perspectives from the peasants to the merchant class to the royals themselves. It reads like a fun romp through the most exciting parts of history.NetGalley, Joanna Pentikis
Definitely give it a read if you love the Stuart era or are interested in learning more about it.