International critical acclaim for

The Origins of Sex


The Economist |The Times |The Sunday Times

The Sunday Telegraph | The Observer | The Sunday Herald

Hindustan Times | BBC History Magazine | Brain Pickings




“One of the best-received non-fiction debuts of recent years.” - John Walsh, The Independent

“Forget the ’60s; sex started far earlier ... Rich, crisply written and impressively well-researched ... engrossing.” - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“Splendid ... audacious ... impressive ... [a] masterly debut ... [a] big book [with] many big successes ... an argument of such elegantly delivered lucidity ... the depth of detailed historical research is as eye-catching as the breadth and topicality of Dabhoiwala’s argument ... [reveals] the core of the Western idea of what it is to be human and to be free ... this is more than just exemplary history; it is timely and important work.” – Ian Kelly, The Times

“Brilliantly researched ... A splendidly informative and entertaining book ... persuasively argue[d] ... rich in anecdotes, funny, touching.” – The Economist (Book of the Year)

“A hugely ambitious book ... fascinating ... lively ... rigorous ... exemplary ... His story is irresistible, a portrait not only of a revolution in sex, but a revolution in the way we view ourselves and our place in the world.” - Laura Miller, Salon

“Meticulous historical reconstruction ... wonderfully entertaining ... a vivid picture of society in transition ... scholarly work, but as readable as a tabloid.” - Emily Bartels, Der Spiegel 

“Impressive ... as learned as it is entertaining ... supports his thesis with vivid examples from a wealth of sources ... provides such an abundance of insights and information that it is bound to inspire lots more further research.” - Gina Thomas, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“Intriguing and erudite, this is everything you never wanted to know about sex because you had no idea its history is so various, fascinating and frankly bonkers. And the relief of this book is that WOMEN are not just part of the index but part of the whole story.” - Jeanette Winterson, The Times (Book of the Year)

“Fascinating ... as important as his subtitle suggests ... delightfully scholarly and enthrallingly readable. Witty, insightful and compelling, it tells a crucial story with aplomb.” - Suzannah Lipscomb, BBC History Magazine (Book of the Year)

A “sumptuously rich, learned and enlightening debut ... What makes Dabhoiwala’s book so gloriously enjoyable is its happy blend of provocative ideas with splendidly rich historical anecdotes ... [a] lucidly written, densely researched and thoroughly persuasive book.” – Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times (Book of the Year)

“Impressive ... thrilling and entertaining ... rich and witty ... an exciting, scholarly, and highly enjoyable book that elucidates a fundamental shift in the history of sexuality, and its enduring effects ... no wonder it has had a rapturous reception.” - Günther Wessel, Deutschlandradio Kultur (Book of the Month)

“Fascinating ... It is my favourite sort of history book, where detailed primary research is wrapped in fine prose and an effortless sense of narrative.” - William Dalrymple, The Observer (Book of the Year)

“Path-breaking ... touching ... This is a marvellously rich and thought-provoking book, written with clarity and humanity, and drawing on a huge range of materials, from sermons to pornography to social statistics.” – Noel Malcolm, The Sunday Telegraph (Book of the Year)

“Rugged and ambitious ... a thought-provoking, superbly argued book ... exceptionally rich ... a book rewarding to engage with on many levels, and crafted with an elegance that makes it a pleasure to read. ... Exceptional in demonstrating how social and cultural change happened ... a model argument ... a book that is provocative in ways that only the best books can be.” - Siân Pooley, English Historical Review

“An inspiring history [that] challenges traditional presumptions about Western sexuality ... richly detailed and vividly written.” - Joachim Kronsbein, Der Spiegel

“Faramerz Dabhoiwala is the Stephen Hawking of sex. ... Extraordinary ... fun ... the perfect bedside read … I read the book with eyes popping.” – Helen Rumbelow, The Times T2

“A groundbreaking work of history.” - Rutger Bregman, De Volkskrant

“A fantastic book.” - Catherine Vuylsteke, De Morgen

“This landmark work … is a huge achievement … an exciting, beautifully written, persuasively and finely argued book that will inspire great debate and revision.” – Sarah Toulalan, Times Higher Education

“Beautiful ... shows the centrality of sex to the Enlightenment ... an enormous panorama ... very important ... a wonderful read ... highly recommended.” - Pieke Biermann, Radioeins - Das Büchermagazin

“An enthralling history ... bold ... eloquent ... inspiring as well as provocative.” – Sarah Bakewell, The Independent

“A deep [and] astonishingly wide-ranging and erudite history, which fascinates throughout.” – Atte Jongstra, NRC Handelsblad

“Wonderful ... [written] with great care and and unselfconscious aplomb ... an informative, wide-ranging book that is also compellingly readable.” – John Barrell, The Guardian

An “exhilarating, groundbreaking book ... the whole narrative is peppered with surprising revelations ... a meticulously researched, rigorously argued study ... Its epic scope ... brings universal truths into sharp focus ... The whole work is suffused with a subtle wit and humour ... This is a lucid and stimulating book that challenges many of our assumptions about sex.” - Matthew Green, History Today

“Highly effective ... takes a fascinating subject seriously ... and in doing so, holds up a mirror to our own contradictory times.” – Lesley McDowell, The Independent on Sunday

“Brilliant ... a killer subject ... the most entertaining work of popular history I have read in years.” – Matt Thorne, The Sunday Express

“The research is prodigious ... massive authority ... a sumptuous book as well as a landmark in early modern social history ... splendidly informative ... incontrovertibly definitive ... a superb work ... brilliant ... The book is a triumph of cogent argument based upon deep reading and careful thought. It will enthrall, entertain and educate.” - Anthony Fletcher, History

Dabhoiwala argues with powerful lucidity ... A book that stimulates the mind.” - Erica Wagner, The Times

“Exceptionally good ... Dabhoiwala assembles a huge mass of information ... his book has many lessons for us.” – Brian Morton, Sunday Herald

“Impressive ... erudite ... packed with information and peppered with fascinating examples. It will delight.” - Julie Peakman, The Times Literary Supplement

“Fascinating ... incorporates everything ... an impressively illustrated argument, both literally and figuratively.” - Hallie Rubenhold, BBC History Magazine

“Forget the Swinging Sixties ... the revolution in the 18th century described by Faramerz Dabhoiwala in his book ... was something which makes your hair stand on end, even when read about more than 250 years later” - A. N. Wilson, The Daily Mail

“Great book - perfect for the beach, cafe, or office.” - Alexander von Schönburg, Bild

“Massive research and the narrative of a thriller. Faramerz Dabhoiwala proves that the first sexual revolution occurred in the eighteenth century.” - Francisco Quinteiro Pires, Carta Capital

Fascinating ... A masterfully researched, absorbing, eloquent account of how, contrary to the modern mythology of the 1960s, today’s permissive sexual behavior first developed, seemingly suddenly, some three hundred years earlier, in 17th-century Western Europe.” - Maria Popova, Brain Pickings (Book of the Year)

“Fresh and engaging ... compelling ... admirable ... insightful ... chockablock with fascinating - and often explicit - accounts ... a work of scholarly heft that is also a pleasure to read.” - Peter Lopatin, Commentary

“A brilliant book ... a monumental study ... an epoch-making subject ... surprising ... amazing ... The Origins of Sex opens up a new field ... meticulously argued, strongly grounded in the sources, full of juicy examples.” - Urs Gehriger, Die Weltwoche

“Ground-breaking ... transforms our understanding of the origins of sexuality in Western culture ... a formidably researched account written in lively, erudite prose.” - Justin Fox, The Cape Times

“Astonishing ... striking ... Presents a tremendously rich view of a fundamental change ... and is equally challenging about the diversity of sexual moralities in the world today.” - Thomas Lepeltier, Sciences Humaines

“This outstanding work of cultural history follows Britain's long, winding path towards sexual freedom ... matches incisive scholarship with humane sensitivity.” - Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

“A fascinating book ... [Full of] enthralling nuggets ... Dabhoiwala has a fine nose for detail.” – Michael Deacon, The Daily Telegraph

The Origins of Sex overturns the conventional wisdom that the sexual revolution began in the Sixties ... baby boomers ... will be shocked and, I suspect, a little upset.” – Cosmo Landesman, The Sunday Times

“It impresses through rich detail, countless stories, and historical insights, and shows how crucial the demand and defence of sexual freedom were to the European Enlightenment.” - Helmut Petzold, Bayern 2 Radio - Diwan: Büchermagazin

“Works meticulously through the historical records ... to show how English culture evolved intellectually, politically, and socially to arrive at modern ideas of sexual liberty, gender equality, and the privatization of sex ... highly recommended.” - Scott Viera, Library Journal

“Ambitious ... brave ... a fascinating subject and also an important one ... it reveals as transient and relative so many of the values that seem non-negotiable today.” – Lucy Worsley, The Financial Times

“Forget the 60s, the first sexual revolution was in the 18th century, [when] new ways of looking at the world ushered in new freedoms ... What emerges is how little we truly know about sexuality, as distinct from what we believe ... A fascinating read.” - Rosemary McLeod, New Zealand Listener

“A beautiful study” - Peter Giesen, De Volkskrant

A “radical and enthralling debut.”  – Tim Lewis, The Observer

“Ambitious and wide-ranging ... Dabhoiwala [argues] gracefully ... embraces [many] complexities ... he writes attractively, always clearly, and with a good eye for apt illustration.” - Norma Clarke, The Literary Review

“When was the sexual revolution? No, not in the 1960s, but between 1600 and 1800 ... The Origins of Sex takes a far-sighted look at the emergence of sexual freedom.” - Bent Blüdnikow, Berlingske

“Deeply informed and wide-ranging ... ambitious ... most readers will be persuaded by the author’s clear and astute reasoning and by the sheer force of documentary evidence.” - Robert A. Nye, Journal of the History of Sexuality

“One of those history books one does not want to put down ... the author is a gifted storyteller, who has a lively, engaging way to popularise history without losing the scientific accuracy ... offers much to ponder over in relation to our own time.” - Satu Lidman, Britain and the World

“Hotly-anticipated ... the book resounds with sundry modern truths.” – Daisy Dunn, The Spectator

Between 1600 and 1800, almost every commonly-held belief about sex was challenged, and we live with the fractious consequences of those changes ... it’s hard not to see ... modern parallel[s].” – Stuart Kelly, The Scotsman

“The strength of this history is the clarity and force of its central thesis ... the details keep us reading, often keep us laughing, and keep us questioning our own assumptions about what pleases or disturbs us today.” - Bethany Schneider, Psychology Tomorrow Magazine

“Fascinating ... impeccable ... whether our second sexual revolution will last longer than our first is far from certain.” - Helen Lewis, The New Statesman

“Alert to the many levels at which history unfolds, Dabhoiwala excavates the origins of our modern attitudes to sex.” - Fiona Capp, The Age

“Acclaimed ... meticulous ... full of entertaining anecdotes ... takes its readers on a compelling journey.” - Sabien Onvlee, Geschiedenis Magazine

“Insightful and well-observed ... delightful.” - Ben Major, Leicester Mercury

Origins is a remarkable read from beginning to end.” - Diane Anderson-Minshall,

“Startling ... a readable and always interesting history.” - Dick O’Brien, The Sunday Business Post

“The book is so relevant for our times ... unique and wonderfully researched ... precise and funny ... a brilliant writer.” - Vivek Tejuja, IBNLive

“A beautiful book ... what Dabhoiwala, Oxford professor, tells us is: the sexual revolution of the 60s, supported by the pill, was not new. The true revolution occurred two centuries before. ... A polemical book, well written, heavily illustrated, and worth reading." - Mary Del Priore, Folha de S. Paulo

The Origins of Sex [shows] that the first sexual revolution swept the Western world between 1600 and 1800 — not the 1960s — when a new openness, thanks to a population explosion, mass communication and greater tolerance, meant a new appreciation of sex as a natural pleasure.” - Andrew Stephens, Sydney Morning Herald

“Dabhoiwala engages in the kind of scholarship we do not often see ... He asks big questions and provides sweeping answers ... admirable ... the hallmark of good scholarship ... contributes a welcome breath of fresh air to the field of the history of sexuality ... The Origins of Sex has started what promises to be a fascinating conversation.” - Cristian Berco, H-Net Reviews 

A “bold, expansive new history ... encyclopedic range ... a work that draws on history, literature, poetry, philosophy, political theory, and religion as well as legal texts, broadsheets, paintings, prints, and material culture, and which is written in a lively style punctuated throughout with juicy vignettes, The Origins of Sex makes for responsible - and racy - reading.” - Tamara Chaplin, The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“The story of how we got here and where this leaves us now ... the sexual revolution of the 1960s ... had its roots in the period Dabhoiwala chronicles.” - Hephzibah Anderson, Prospect

“A massive undertaking ... multifaceted ... intriguing ... well worth the time.” - Hennie Weiss, Metapsychology

The Origins of Sex, a monumental study ... radically revises the history of sexual freedom. ... After 300 years, it is still possible to identify the sexual values of the Enlightenment in the ideas that we hear and repeat every day.” - Ivan Martins, Época

“Full of facts, anecdotes and analysis. There are lots of surprises.” - William Leith, London Evening Standard

“Revolutionary ... utterly fascinating ... compelling ... echoed right up to the present day ... a comprehensive and fascinating dissection.” - Dawn Hinsley, Lincolnshire Echo

The book’s “rewards ... are many ... Dabhoiwala answers [key questions] in meticulous, satisfying detail.” - Sidin Vadakut, Mint

“Lively and massively researched ... makes a convincing case that modern attitudes to sex ... derive from the changes in thought and sensibility that constituted the European Enlightenment.” - John Sainsbury, Choice

“A sensation ... very compelling ... the reader is amazed at the beautiful, noteworthy findings that Faramerz Dabhoiwala unfolds for us in his book.” - Hannes Stein, Die Welt

“Dabhoiwala is the first to argue for a ‘sexual revolution’ in early modern England ... Elegant, closely argued, witty ... The Origins of Sex poses numerous questions for future researchers and may well force historians to rethink the centrality of the nineteenth century in the history of sex.” Barry Reay, The American Historical Review

“Amazing ... the methodological care and attention to the sources is truly innovative ... an excellent narrative voice ... The Origins of Sex  [will make] readers understand ... the fragile consensus of sex in the western world.” Jonathan Anuik, World History Connected

“Presents its account in readable prose studded with vivid anecdotes, and links larger themes in a manner that is audacious and seductive ... intriguing and bound to have strong influence on future scholarship.” - Kim M. Phillips, The Historian

“An expansive, ambitious account ... a rich portrait ... the text glitters with engaging anecdotes ... truly astonishing ... thoroughly readable: at times humorous, always engaging. The Origins of Sex is a brilliant reminder of the power of ideas to shape the concrete conditions of our lives.” - Annika Blau, Ideas at the House

“A rich story ... The Origins of Sex traces the roots of sexual freedom back to the dramatic intellectual and political shifts of the eighteenth century.” - Mattias Svensson, Neo

“A valuable contribution to the history of European civilization ... bold and ambitious ... a comprehensive perspective.” - Yvonne Schymura, Die Zeit

“Richly illustrated ... meticulously researched and brilliantly written.” - Harald Loch, Der Zauberberg

“Insightful ... Its findings are especially resonant in their connections to the present: the basics of sexual repression in other parts of the world today are similar to those of pre-Enlightenment Europe.” - Andrea Bendlage, H/Soz/Kult

“Fascinating ... highly readable ... impressive research.” - Anna Clark, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

“Sex and Revolution ... In almost 700 pages, Faramerz Dabhoiwala unpacks the history of sex in humanity.” - Revista CULT

“Excitingly written ... as profound as it is entertaining.” - Sybille Peine, Deutsche Presse-Agentur

“Enlightening ... comprehensive ... vividly portrayed.” - Sabine Bitter, SRF Radio 2 - Kultur

“Makes the case for a revolutionary change ... powerfully document[ed] ... highly readable.” - Laura J. Rosenthal, Journal of British Studies

“A clear and forceful argument ... sophisticated analysis of a rich and engaging range of source material ... very well written and beautifully illustrated ... an easy and enjoyable read [and] a significant addition to the historiography.” - Jennifer Evans, Journal of Social History

An “important work ... the author has a keen eye for the voices of women and ordinary people.” - Adolf Holl, Die Presse

“This richly-documented cultural history destroys a cherished myth: it was not the communards and hippies of the 60s and 70s who discovered free love ... the 18th century saw new attitudes towards sexuality that radically altered relations between the sexes.” - Florian Stark, Die Welt

“A superbly readable, hugely informative, tremendously wide-ranging book.” - Michael Lehmann-Pape, Buchvergleich

“A brilliant study.” - Stefan Kister, Stuttgarter Zeitung

“Filled with interesting stories and illustrations, The Origins of Sex is a great read.” - Luiz Biajoni, Amálgama

“Stunning ... observant ... proves that ... ‘our’ sexual freedom has a long history.” - Urs Hafner, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

“Exploits every possible source ... an entertaining, well-written read.” - Jonas Arnold, Kulturtipp

“Deeply researched and entertainingly told.” - Stadtzauber Kulturmagazin

“Dabhoiwala’s seductively elegant argument proves that the first sexual revolution was a child of the Englightenment ... Beguiling.” - Weser-Kurier: Tageszeitung für Bremen und Niedersachsen

“Exciting and entertaining ... a wealth of material ... a book that is extremely well written and worth reading.” - Shermin Arif, Sein

“The Enlightenment brought light into the bedrooms of Europe ... Dabhoiwala's book presents a complete picture of how intellectual, political, and social currents altered the understanding of sexuality.” - Ulrich Brömmling, DHIVA: Frauen, Sexualität und Gesundheit

“Our modern sexual tolerance is usually attributed to the sexual revolution of the 1960s. However, this short-term perspective is deceptive, as the new book by the historian Faramerz Dabhoiwala shows.” - Robert Jütte, Damals: Das Magazin für Geschichte

“A courageous book.” - Estado de Minas

“The history of sexual freedom is fragile and contradictory ... the book's strength lies in its richly detailed pursuit and demonstration of such contradictions.” - Judith von Sternburg, Frankfurter Rundschau

“The sexual revolution is history, yet never ending ... as the British historian Faramerz Dabhoiwala shows, until well into the 18th century, sex was anything but a private matter.” - Julia Lutzeyer, Sonntag Aktuell

“Brilliantly written, based on in-depth research, and enriched with numerous examples, it tells the story of the origins of personal sexual autonomy from the church, state, and community.” - Jürgen Lentes, Romanfabrik Kulturbrief

“Describes how it came about that church and state were banished from European bedrooms ... a book that is sure to change many people's ideas about life and love in the past.” - Eric Hegmann, The Huffington Post

“Outlines the trajectory of sexual life in the West ... rich detail ... breadth of research ... important findings.” - Iracema Sales, Diário do Nordeste

“Explains how the Enlightenment helped shape modern sexual cultures, to this day.” - Revista Fator Brasil

“The colourful history of 18th-century English morals ... laid the ground for 20th-century feminism [and] the foundations of economic liberalism ... [shows] the modernity of the English Enlightenment.” - Jens Jessen, Die Zeit

Written “with clarity and energy. A fascinating account.” - Lesley McDowell, Sunday Herald

“Ambitious in intent and innovative in approach.” - Oscar Pilagallo, Folha de S. Paolo

“A book full of knowledge, and a great read”, Keziah Raiol, Paixão Literária

“An entertaining and racy read.” - Andrew Lynch, The Sunday Business Post

“I hoped this would be a riot of comedy ... but no ... they were horrible, horrible people, our ancestors ... this book does make you start to believe in some human progress ... This is a very bleak book in which you meet humanity at its silliest and most cruel.” - Byron Rogers, The Spectator

“A revelation ... The book is not simply a finely crafted work of history, but a study that will reshape the way its readers understand the most intimate level of their lives.  It may even bring some sanity to modern debates about sexuality.” – Diarmaid MacCulloch

“Brilliantly argued, lucid and enthralling ... a majestic and provocative history of ideas and attitudes.” – Amanda Vickery