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About the book
  • Published: 28 May 2018
  • ISBN: 9780099592945
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.99

Queer City

Gay London from the Romans to the Present Day

Peter Ackroyd looks at London in a whole new way – through the history and experiences of its gay population.

‘Droll, provocative and crammed to busting with startling facts’ Simon Callow, Guardian

In this powerful Sunday Times bestseller Peter Ackroyd looks at London in a whole new way – through the history and experiences of its gay population.

In Roman Londinium the city was dotted with lupanaria (‘wolf dens’ or public pleasure houses), fornices (brothels) and thermiae (hot baths). Then came the Emperor Constantine, with his bishops, monks and missionaries. And so began an endless loop of alternating permissiveness and censure.

Ackroyd takes us right into the hidden history of the city; from the notorious Normans to the frenzy of executions for sodomy in the early nineteenth century. He journeys through the coffee bars of sixties Soho to Gay Liberation, disco music and the horror of AIDS.

Today, we live in an era of openness and tolerance and Queer London has become part of the new norm. Ackroyd tells us the hidden story of how it got there, celebrating its diversity, thrills and energy on the one hand; but reminding us of its very real terrors, dangers and risks on the other.

  • Pub date: 28 May 2018
  • ISBN: 9780099592945
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $22.99

About the Author

Peter Ackroyd

Peter Ackroyd is an award-winning historian, biographer, novelist, poet and broadcaster. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers London: The Biography, Thames: Sacred River and London Under; biographies of figures including Charles Dickens, William Blake, Charlie Chaplin and Alfred Hitchcock; and a multi-volume history of England. He has won the Whitbread Biography Award, the Royal Society of Literature's William Heinemann Award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the Guardian Fiction Prize, the Somerset Maugham Award and the South Bank Prize for Literature. He holds a CBE for services to literature.

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Praise for Queer City

“After his mammoth, shamanic aria London: the Biography, the remarkable writer Peter Ackroyd has produced a nimble, uproarious pocket history of sex in his beloved metropolis”

Alasdair Lees, Independent

“Ackroyd has an encyclopaedic knowledge of London, and a poet's instinct for its strange, mesmerising drives and urges ... Queer City contains something to alarm or fascinate on every page”

Craig Brown, The Mail on Sunday

“Droll, provocative and crammed to busting with startling facts”

Simon Callow, The Guardian

“If there was a prize for the most evocative or salacious chapter headings, then Peter Ackroyd's new book, Queer City, would be the undisputed victor. They capture the rudery and naughtiness, although not the erudition of this entertaining history of the 'queer' experience in London”

Robbie Millen, The Times

“Succinct, perceptive and robust”

Rupert Christiansen, Daily Telegraph

“The kind of screed a queer person would be remiss if they did not pick up. This is a call to arms... Throughout the book it is made clear that for every halcyon day, there was a dystopia that preceded and followed. The one great progress Ackroyd highlights is that we have one thing in the 21st century that the other eras did not: an attempt a 'gay community' ... London relies on queerness as much as queers have relied on the labyrinth and the bacchanal of the Big Smoke. Now, it seems, we have a chance to change it in the open”

David Levesley

“Ackroyd's brisk little history of what he calls queer London is itself a collation of sweetmeats”

Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times

“Always entertaining ... much to be recommended”

Philip Hensher, The Spectator

“This gallop through the pink past [...] tells a torrid tale of persecution and pleasure, of blackmail and blue murder”

Mark Sanderson, Evening Standard

“By shining a light in dark places, Ackroyd has created a triumphantly queer picture of a city he loves – as city as queer as any other”

Philip Hoare, New Statesman

“A timely reminder that gay lives have always been tightly woven into London's rich social brocade”


“If you've never read anything by Peter Ackroyd, imagine settling down in a pub… There you are, ensconced in that pub… and you're stuck by the realization that your companion is so knowledgeable, so erudite, so simply brilliant that you don't care you've not got a word in edgeways since the first few foamy quaffs a couple of hours back. That's what reading Peter Ackroyd is like… Ackroyd possesses a lightness of touch which means the reader never feels overwhelmed by the accumulation of facts, figures, and salacious anecdotes they're presented with… Endlessly fascinating... This book teaches us the importance that queer life in London has, and always will have, to all of us”

Josh Baines, THUMP UK

“This is a very worthy book that charts queer experience onto the map of London from which it has been omitted for so many centuries”

Sam Ford, Totally Dublin

“A rambunctious chronicle of “gay London from pre-Roman times to the present day””


“Ackroyd delivers an excellent queer read about London, this time ‘our’ London… Endless facts delight and amuse in this celebration and investigation of queer life from Celtic times to the present day… Validating, interesting and endlessly fascinating”


“Teeming with incredible stories, amazing characters and extraordinary detail, Queer City is the fascinating story of LGBT+ London from the Romans to the present day and reveals the incredibly rich history of London’s LGBT+ past”

Pride Life

“Succinct, perceptive and robust”

Daily Telegraph

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