In 1432, the Office of the Night was created specifically to police sodomy in Florence. Seventy years of denunciations, accusations, interrogations and sentencings left an extraordinarily detailed record, which the author utilizes in this portrait. He uncovers a culture in which sexual roles were strictly defined by age, with boys under the age of 18 the "passive" participants in sodomy, youths in their 20s the "active" participants, and men in their 30s marrying women, their days of sexual frivolity over. The book paints a picture of a vibrant time and place and calls into question our modern conceptions of gender and sexual identity. It is primarily intended for scholars and students of early modern European history and gender studies.
Michael Rocke is the Nicky Mariano Librarian of the Biblioteca Berenson at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, in Florence.