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University of Texas at Austin

British Sexological Society:

An Inventory of Its Records at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: British Sexological Society, approximately 1913-1945
Title: British Sexological Society Records
Dates: 1875-1952, undated
Extent: 35 document boxes (14.70 linear feet), 1 galley file (gf)
Abstract: The British Sexological Society collection preserves the correspondence and operating records that document the history of the organization from its creation in 1913 until it ceased operation in the 1940s. Also included are correspondence and personal papers of George Ives, one of the Society's founders.
Call Number: Manuscript Collection MS-00518
Language: English, French, and German
Access: Open for research. Researchers must create an online Research Account and agree to the Materials Use Policy before using archival materials.
Use Policies: Ransom Center collections may contain material with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in the collections without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g., a cause of action under common law for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the Ransom Center and The University of Texas at Austin assume no responsibility.
Restrictions on Use: Authorization for publication is given on behalf of the University of Texas as the owner of the collection and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder which must be obtained by the researcher. For more information please see the Ransom Centers' Open Access and Use Policies.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. British Sexological Society Records (Manuscript Collection MS-00518).
Acquisition: Purchase, 1969 (R4701)
Processed by: Stephanie Bordy, 2010; Joan Sibley and Richard Workman, 2017

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Organizational Sketch

The British Sexological Society was founded 12 August 1913—tentatively named the British Society of Psychiatry—by Edward Carpenter, Magnus Hirschfeld, Laurence Housman, George Ives, and others, an all-male group predominantly interested in homosexual law reform. The name was changed in 1914 to The British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology and again in 1930 to The British Sexological Society.
The Society sponsored regular meetings for its members and guests where papers were read and discussion was encouraged; it also maintained a lending library and published seventeen pamphlets during its existence. Some of the topics addressed by the Society were the promotion of the scientific study of sex and a more rational attitude towards sexual conduct and problems, questions connected with sexual psychology (from medical, juridical, and sociological points of view), birth control, abortion, sterilization, sexually-transmitted diseases, and prostitution.
Other members (some of whom served as Secretary of the executive committee) included C. R. Ashbee, Frank F. Bennett, Dion Byngham, E. Lonsdale Deighton, Havelock Ellis, E. M. Forster, Edward Garnett, Harley Granville-Barker, Leonard H. Green, Georg Groddeck, Norman Haire, Vyvyan Holland, Hugh Northcote, Eden and Cedar Paul, Lewis H. Plummer, George Bernard Shaw, Montague Summers, and Edward Westermarck. Female members were elected as early as 1914. Women were consistently represented on the executive committee, and women's sexual concerns were a significant part of the group's focus. Among the female members were Marie Barquet, Louisa M. Best, Stella Browne, Dora F. Kerr, Helene Stöcker, and Harriet Shaw Weaver.
By the time the Society ended its activities in the 1940s, it had been "instrumental in helping to form a new public opinion--or a new open-mindedness towards sex," as Housman claimed in a letter to Ives.
George Ives Biographical Sketch
George Cecil Ives, born 1 October 1867, was the illegitimate son of Gordon Maynard Ives, a British colonel, and Violet Malortie, a member of the Austrian nobility. He was raised by his paternal grandmother, the Hon. Emma Ives, in England and France.
He graduated from Magdalene College, Cambridge, in 1885 and then devoted his life to social reform and his favorite hobbies: zoos, cricket, and chess. As an activist, he focused his energies on prison reform and improvement in the legal status of homosexuals. One of his efforts in the latter direction (which he termed, "the Cause") was to found a secret organization for gay men known as the Order of Chaeronea. Several letters among Ives's incoming correspondence bear the seal of the group, and there is more material related to the Order in the Ransom Center's George Cecil Ives Papers.
Ives was one of the founders of the British Sexological Society, and he remained closely associated with the organization throughout its existence. He apparently came into possession of the Society's records after its demise, and they were somehow mixed with a portion of his own papers before the collection came to the Ransom Center several years after his death in 1950.


B. Weinreb Ltd. "The British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology, later called the British Sexological Society. Its archives, records, and correspondence." Dealer's description, 1969, 5pp.
Cook, Matt. "Ives, George Cecil (1867-1950)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2006; online edn, Oct 2007 [, accessed 12 September 2017].
Hall, Lesley A. "'Disinterested Enthusiasm for Sexual Misconduct': The British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology, 1913-1974." Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 30 (1995), 665-686.

Scope and Contents

The British Sexological Society collection preserves the correspondence and operating records that document the history of the organization from its creation in 1913 until it ceased operation in the 1940s. Also included are correspondence and personal papers of George Ives, one of the Society's founders.
This finding aid replaces information previously available only in a card catalog. In addition, the collection was given a new, simpler arrangement in an effort to remove some of the difficulties the old arrangement posed for patrons and staff. Specifically, all material in the previous Miscellaneous series has been re-cataloged according to whether it is related to the operations of the Society or to George Ives's personal activities. Because all works are now listed by author and title in this guide and an index of correspondents has been supplied, researchers who either worked with the previous arrangement or are using citations furnished by earlier users should have no trouble locating material in the present version.
Except for Ives's family letters, third-party correspondence (in which neither the sender nor the recipient is either a representative of the Society or Ives himself) is interfiled by sender and indexed under both the sender's and the recipient's names.
The archive is organized in two series: I. British Sexological Society, 1913-1940, undated (18.5 boxes) and II. George Ives, 1875-1952, undated (16.5 boxes).
Series I is divided into three subseries: A. Correspondence, 1916-1940, undated; B. Records, 1913-1940, undated; and C. Third-Party Works, 1914-1936, undated. The Incoming section of Subseries A includes all correspondence where the recipient is affiliated, officially or unofficially, with the Society. The Third-Party Works subseries comprises talks and articles written for presentation to meetings of the Society or for inclusion in its publications.
Series II is also composed of three subseries: A. Correspondence, 1889-1950, undated; B. Works, 1910-1950, undated; and C. Personal Papers and Third-Party Works, 1875-1952, undated. In addition to matters related to the Society and the Order, Ives's correspondence concerns his interests in prison reform, the law's effect on homosexuals, zoos, cricket, and chess.
Correspondence with members of the Order of Chaeronea was sometimes dated by adding 338 to the calendar year, in honor of the Sacred Band of Thebes, an army of male lovers that was defeated at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 b.c.e.
Another facet of Ives's correspondence concerns the nicknames he gave to some friends and members of his household. Ives was sexually attracted to working-class men and had a tendency to keep them as friends after the affair was over. In some cases, he shared his home with his former lovers (and, in the case of James Goddard, with his wife and children as well), whom he referred to as his "family" or his "children." For example, Harold Bloodworth, one of Ives's "children," lived with Ives from 1906 until Ives's death and acted as executor for his literary estate. Many of the members of this extended family are identified only by pet names in the correspondence; where real names can be furnished, they are cross-referenced in the Index of Correspondents.
The Works subseries includes manuscripts of his fiction, poetry, and nonfiction.
The personal papers in Subseries C are concerned primarily with his birth family and the disposition of his estate. The authorship and purpose of the notebooks in the Third-Party Works section are unknown, but they may have belonged to a member of his household.

Related Material

Elsewhere in the Ransom Center are the separately acquired George Cecil Ives Papers, which include the 122 volumes of Ives's diary; 15 folders of mostly printed material related to the British Sexological Society in the Vertical File Collection; approximately 250 titles from the Society's and Ives's libraries in the book collections; and 27 photographs in the George Ives Literary File, Photography Collection.
The 45 scrapbooks that Ives compiled throughout his life are held by the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

Index Terms


Browne, Stella, 1880-1955.
Carpenter, Edward, 1844-1929.
Ellis, Havelock, 1859-1939.
Groddeck, Georg, 1866-1934.
Hirschfeld, Magnus, 1868-1935.
Housman, Laurence, 1865-1959.
Ives, George, 1867-1950.
Westermarck, Edward, 1862-1939.


British Sexological Society.
British Society for the Study of Sex Psychology.




London (England).

Document Types

Account books.
Annual reports.
Minute books.

Container List