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Department of History / People / Faculty by Name / Charles Upchurch

Charles Upchurch

Associate Professor of History

Additional Information

452 Bellamy
Ph.D., 2003, Rutgers University
Research Interests: 
Modern Britain, British Empire, Gender and Sexuality, Atlantic World

Contact Information


Charles Upchurch received his Ph.D. in modern British history from Rutgers University (2003). His research focuses on nineteenth-century British gender and social history, and his teaching fields include modern Britain, the British Empire, modern Europe, gender history, and the history of sexuality. His book, Before Wilde: Sex Between Men in Britain’s Age of Reform (University of California Press, 2009), explores the ways in which class influenced the interpretation of same-sex desire in the period when the British state first began to police sex between men on a regular basis. It is the first work to call attention to the widespread reporting of court cases related to sex between men in mainstream London newspapers between 1820 and 1870. It also places family reactions at the center of the narrative, in order to better understand how these acts were understood within the broader culture.

Prof. Upchurch's current book project investigates a group of men in the British Parliament who were working to reduce the penalties for homosexual acts in the early nineteenth century. These men made arguments to their parliamentary colleagues that followed the principles of Enlightenment-era legal reforms without defending sexual acts between men, but among themselves they spoke of the naturalness of such feelings, and their basis in love, rather than lust. The project analyzes the extent to which these men exhibited both identity and activism based on feelings of same-sex desire, generations before such political activism was first thought to have occurred. It also charts the potential of their reform effort, and the series of events that led to its spectacular collapse.  

In addition to his work in the areas of gender and sexuality, Prof. Upchurch is also researching the ways in which working- and middle-class individuals appropriated aspects of the work of Adam Smith for socially progressive ends in the decades before the major publications of Karl Marx. He has previously published on cross-dressers and British society in the 1870s and on methodologies for using new digital tools to conduct historical research. His work has appeared in The Journal of Social History, The Journal of the History of Sexuality, Gender and History, and other scholarly journals.


My Upcoming Teaching Rotation

Fall - 2015 - Research Leave  

Spring - 2016
British Empire – 3000-level (Liberal Studies/Writing Class)
Gender, Class, and Sexuality in Britain: 1750-1914 – 4000-level
Graduate Seminar: Writing History: Gender/Theory/Digital – 6000-level 

My Recent Teaching (courses usually appear in a three year rotation)

Fall - 2014 
England 1714-1870 – 4000-level 
British Empire – 3000-level (Liberal Studies/Writing Class) 
Graduate Colloquium: British Empire – 6000-level 

Spring – 2015 
Stuart England – 4000-level 
Modern Britain: 1870 to Present – 4000-level 
Graduate Colloquium: British Economic and Political History – 6000-level  

Undergraduates wanting to do an honors thesis under my direction should speak to me in advance, and if at all possible take one of my senior seminars before the project begins, or during the first semester of the honors thesis project. If this is not possible, students should take another one of my 4000-level courses, to get an idea of the requirements I set for original research.