Charles Upchurch

Associate Professor of History
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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. Since 2014 he has served as one of six Distinguished Academic Patrons of LGBT History Month in the United Kingdom.


My Upcoming Teaching Rotation

Fall 2017

British Empire – 3000-level (Liberal Studies/Writing Class)

Stuart England – 4000-level 

Graduate Seminar: British Modernity – 6000-level 

Spring 2018 – Research Leave


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

Spring 2017

Modern Britain: 1870 to Present – 4000-level 

Senior Seminar: British Gender History – 4000-level capstone class

Graduate Seminar: British Empire – 6000-level 

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 – 6000-level

Spring 2015 

Stuart England – 4000-level 

Modern Britain: 1870 to Present – 4000-level 

Graduate Colloquium: British Economic and Political History – 6000-level  

Fall 2014 

England 1714-1870 – 4000-level 

British Empire – 3000-level (Liberal Studies/Writing Class) 

Graduate Colloquium: British Empire – 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. In recent years, two of my students were selected as winners of the North American Conference on British Studies Undergraduate Essay Contest for work produced in my classes.