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About the book
  • Published: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409060864
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240


The Secret History of the Personal Column

A wonderfully quirky social history of modern Britain

‘Lonely Young Officer, up to his neck in Flanders mud, would like to correspond with young lady (age 18–20), cheery and good looking.’ 1916

'Discreet, attractive couple 21 and 25 wish to meet couples and singles 21-35 for exciting and fun-loving adult relationships. Open-minded but not way out. No prejudices. Full length photo, address, and detailed letter assures same.’ 1969

From the ‘sporty girls’ and ‘artistic’ boys of the Edwardian era to the lonely soldiers of the Great War, the marriage bureaux of the fifties, and on to the internet dating sites of today, Classified tells the story of those who used personal ads to search for love, friendship, marriage and adventure.

  • Pub date: 1 September 2010
  • ISBN: 9781409060864
  • Imprint: Cornerstone Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 240

About the Author

H G Cocks

H. G. Cocks is lecturer in history at Nottingham University. He is the author of Nameless Offences (Tauris, 2003) a history of Victorian homosexuality and (with Matt Houlbrook) editor of The Modern History of Sexuality (Palgrave, 2005).

Praise for Classified

“This trawl through the passions and peculiarities of the lonely and desperate is fascinating and surprisingly moving in its humanity”

Waterstones Books Quarterly

“A lively, surprising, sometimes saucy story”

The Times

“An interesting, topical and anecdotal journey through the years”

Gay Times

“Packed with fascinating social history ... compelling and informative”


“In telling the stories of those who use them, Cocks shows how personal columns were not only a vital way of making friends and meeting lovers but also of forging a community when homosexuality was still illegal, when being single past the age of 21 was seen as embarrassingly shameful and when the difficulty of divorce could make marriage seem an intolerable burden”


“the great pleasure of this book is the jump from the euphemistic wording in the ads to the sexual truth behind it”

Harry Mount, Literary Review

“Whether you're a SWF, NS, GSOH or merely intrigued by the lives behind the acronyms, this book takes a quirky look at modern relationships”

Lauren Laverne, Grazia

“How Britain has evolved from Victorian prudishness is the subject of this engrossing survey of our quest for love and sex over the past century”

London Paper

“An interesting look at a social phenomenon that is becoming less and less shrouded in stigma as virtual reality becomes the norm”

Time Out

“A fascinating book”

Word Magazine

“a fascinating portrait of changing social mores, from Thirties pornography and Seventies wife-swapping through to modern internet dating”

Mail on Sunday

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