"A field for Private Members": The Wolfenden Committee & Scottish Homosexual Law Reform, 1950-67

Roger Davidson, Gayle Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The proceedings and report of the Wolfenden Committee on Prostitution and Homosexual Offences (1954–7) figure prominently in the historiography of homosexuality in later twentieth-century Britain. However, in the main, research has centred on the social politics of the Committee and its implications for sexual law reform in England, and there is a notable lack of regional studies. Using a range of government archives, this article focuses on the written and oral evidence of Scottish witnesses to the Committee. It documents the pre-existing legal and medical provisions for the treatment of ‘homosexual offences’ in Scotland, and surveys the Scottish evidence for and against the decriminalization of homosexual practices. Thereafter, it examines the views of the Scottish members of the Committee in the context of the Wolfenden Report. The article then surveys the wide-ranging opposition to homosexual law reform within Scotland in the period 1957–67, culminating in its exclusion from the 1967 Sexual Offences Act. Finally, it evaluates the implications of the Scottish experience and concludes that, in some important respects, it does not conform to the innovative and transitional picture advanced in many previous interpretations of the Wolfenden Committee and its aftermath.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-201
Number of pages28
JournalTwentieth Century British History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2004


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