The discovery of a 200 year old diary written by a Yorkshire farmer is surprising historians because of the tolerance it shows towards homosexuality in Britain at that time.
Via BBC News:
Historians from Oxford University have been taken aback to discover that Matthew Tomlinson’s diary from 1810 contains such open-minded views about same-sex attraction being a “natural” human tendency.
The diary challenges preconceptions about what “ordinary people” thought about homosexuality – showing there was a debate about whether someone really should be discriminated against for their sexuality.
In this exciting new discovery, we see a Yorkshire farmer arguing that homosexuality is innate and something that shouldn’t be punished by death,” says Oxford researcher Eamonn O’Keeffe.
Tomlinson argued, from a religious perspective, that punishing someone for how they were created was equivalent to saying that there was something wrong with the Creator.
“It must seem strange indeed that God Almighty should make a being with such a nature, or such a defect in nature; and at the same time make a decree that if that being whom he had formed, should at any time follow the dictates of that Nature, with which he was formed, he should be punished with death,” he wrote on January 14 1810.
If there was an “inclination and propensity” for someone to be homosexual from an early age, he wrote, “it must then be considered as natural, otherwise as a defect in nature – and if natural, or a defect in nature; it seems cruel to punish that defect with death”.
Matthew Tomlinson was a widower, in his 40s when he wrote his journal in 1810 – a man of a “middling” class, not a poor labourer but not rich enough to own his own land.
No-one knows how these private diaries, covering 1806 to 1839, ended up in Wakefield Library, but they were there by the 1950s and are presumed to be part of an earlier acquisition of old books and local documents.