cambridge 5

People in History: The Cambridge 5

Guy Burgess. Wikimedia Commons

In the 1950s, during the height of the first Cold War period, Britain was rocked by the uncovering of a Soviet spy ring which reached to the very heart of the establishment.

Kim Philby was born in India in 1912. His father was a famous author and convert to Islam who worked for the Indian Civil Service and later as advisor to King Ibn Sa’ud of Saudi Arabia. Kim (the nickname came from the Kipling book of the same title) was educated in England, attending Westminster College before going on to Trinity College, Cambridge to read History and Economics. He graduated in 1933.

Donald Maclean was born in London in 1913, son of the Liberal politician Sir Donald Maclean, Leader of the Opposition in the House of Commons following the 1918 election. He attended a progressive independent school in Norfolk before enrolling at Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1931 to study Modern Languages. He graduated with a first-class degree in 1934. Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in Biography, Queer Blogging

The History of Homosexuality: Blackmail and Espionage

Guy Burgess. Wikimedia Commons

Ever since the law criminalised homosexual acts and identities, it has been open to abuse from blackmailers. When I examined the Burney Collection, almost a quarter of complaints concerning sodomy related to blackmail, the threat of “swearing sodomy” against an innocent party. If discovered, the blackmailer was subject to the same punishment as somebody convicted of the crime they claimed (generally standing in the pillory up to three times, and paying a fine of 50l, or £10,000/$15,000 in today’s money).

While obviously a serious problem for those who found themselves blackmailed, or convicted of blackmailing others, these were private dramas; tragedies for individual families, but not nations. Following the Second World War, all that was to change. Continue reading →

Posted by Kate Aaron in History, Queer Blogging