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LGBTQ+ Collections: Special collections and archives

Introduction to the LGBTQ+ Research Resources Guide

This resource guide has been created to highlight archives and books held at the University of Exeter Heritage Collections that relate to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, history and culture. We recognise that these resources are not always easily identifiable via our webpages or catalogues, so we hope this guide will provide a more accessible means of exploring this material. The collections highlighted in this guide have been identified using our catalogues, but are not exhaustive. If you come across any other sources within our collections that you think should be included in this guide, we would be very pleased to hear about them.

The creation of this guide has involved research of our collections, identification of bias on our catalogue, and the revision of some of our catalogue descriptions by an archivist. Some of our collections may contain offensive terms or terms that have changed meaning over time. In some cases these terms are included in our catalogue descriptions in order to provide information about the content and nature of the source. The inclusion of these terms does not reflect the views of the University of Exeter Heritage Collections and we apologise for any offence that may be caused. 

Detailed guidance on researching sexuality and gender identity in archives can be found on the webpages of The National Archives.

LGBTQ+ Resources guide created by the University of Exeter Library provides links to digital archives, e-books & audiovisual materials available to University of Exeter staff and students. A LGBTQ+ reading list is also available.

Archives and rare books held by Special Collections and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum are available to everyone. More information about accessing the collections can be found in our Visiting Heritage Collections LibGuide. Please note that there may be some restrictions on accessing and copying (including photography) material in the archives and books held by Special Collections and the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in line with current data protection and copyright legislation. Always make sure to check the access conditions on the archive catalogue and email Special Collections before your visit for more information about specific restrictions.

To discuss our research resources in more detail, please contact us at We would welcome your feedback on our approach to this resource guide, its content and the terminology used. We believe there may be many more LGBTQ+ stories to explore within our collections and we warmly welcome everyone, particularly those from LGBTQ+ communities, to get in touch if they wish to work with us to bring these stories to light.

Bill Douglas Cinema Museum Collections

The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum has a collection of over 80,000 objects on the history of the moving image. This is a rich resource for researching and understanding LGBT+ history, not just in terms of representation but also in showing the importance of cinema as a place of identification for LGBT+ communities. As well as books and publicity material on key films, you can also find evidence of the coded expressions of gay life before legalisation in publications such as Films and Filming. You can find more on this in a blog on our website by Dr Chris O’Rourke at In addition we hold important archive material on the work of Derek Jarman, both in the archive of James Mackay, who produced many ground-breaking gay films from the 1970s including Jarman’s Blue, The Garden and The Angelic Conversation and the papers of Don Boyd who produced Jarman’s The Tempest  and The War Requiem. We work with a number of scholars across the University in research and teaching on the role of the moving image in LGBT+ histories.

Find out more about the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum collections

Hypatia Collection

The Hypatia Collection consists of approximately 10,000 books and journals by or about women. Part of its richness stems from the inclusive collecting habits of its creator who acquired many ephemeral titles and books on subjects and by writers traditionally excluded from the academic canon in her aim 'to make available published documentation about women in every aspect of their lives'.

The collection includes a range of books and pamphlets concerning or exploring themes around sexuality and gender identity. You can find examples of fiction and non-fiction works in the tabs within this box. Please note that these lists are not exhaustive, and further items of relevance may be found within the collection. If you identify any books within the collection that could be added to the list, we would be very pleased to hear about them.

Content warning: some of the books listed under non-fiction relate to discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ communities

Examples of fiction books by LGBTQ+ writers and/or exploring sexuality and gender identity include:

Content warning: some of the books listed below relate to discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ communities

Non-fiction books and pamphlets in the Hyaptia Collection include:

  • Homosexuality and American Psychiatry: The Politics of Diagnosis (1981) by Ronals Bayer [Hypatia CRIT/BAY]
  • Love's Coming-of-Age: A Series of Papers on the Relation of the Sexes (1911) by Edward Carpenter [Hypatia MAR/CAR]
  • Gayspeak: Gay Male & Lesbian Communication (1981), edited by James W. Chesebro [Hypatia CRIT/CHE]
  • Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men (1991) by Gary David Comstock [Hypatia CRIT/COM]  
  • Lesbian Studies: Present and Future (1982) by Margaret Cruikshank [Hypatia CRIT/CRU
  • Radclyffe Hall at the Well of Loneliness: A Sapphic Chronicle (1975) by Lovat Dickson [Hypatia BIO/HAL]
  • Lesbians in Germany: 1890's-1920's (1990), edited by Lillian Faderman and Brigitte Eriksson [Hypatia POL/FAD]
  • Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution: presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Secretary of State for Scotland (1957) [Hypatia HEA/GRE]
  • Changing the World: A London Charter for Gay and Lesbian Rights (1985), produced by the Greater London Council in co-operation with the GLC Gay Working Party [Hypatia POL/CHA/Pamphlet]
  • Tackling Heterosexism: A Handbook of Lesbian Rights (c 1986), produced by the GLC Women's Committee [Hypatia POL/GLC/Pamphlet]
  • Fancy's Craft: Art and Identity in the Early Works of Djuna Barnes (1986) by Cheryl J. Plumb [Hypatia LIT/PLU]
  • Mary Renault: A Biography (1994) by David Sweetman [Hypatia BIO/REN]
  • Magazines and journals in the Hypatia Collection, such as Spare Rib, also contain articles concerning sexuality and gender identity [browse all magazines and journals in the Hypatia Collection here]

Literary papers of Rupert Croft-Cooke (EUL MS 232)

Rupert Croft-Cooke (1903-1979) was a writer who also published under the name Leo Bruce. As an adult, he taught English for five years, first in Paris and then in Buenos Aires, where he founded and edited the periodical 'La Estrella'. He returned to England in 1925, setting up a bookshop in Kent, as well as doing broadcasting and journalism work. Before joining the army in 1940, he moved abroad to Germany, Switzerland and Spain. Returning to the UK in 1946, he took up writing again, holding the position of book critic for 'The Sketch' between 1947 and 1953. In 1953, Croft-Cooke was convicted of 'gross indecency' due to his same-sex relationships. He served a six-month prison sentence, and later wrote about the British penal system in 'The Verdict of You All' (1955). In 1953 he moved to Morocco for fifteen years until 1968, after which he lived variously in Tunisia, Cyprus, Germany and Ireland before returning to the UK. A substantial part of his work was written abroad. He published more than 125 books of all genres, many for the mass market, and was best known as a writer of detective fiction: many of these works were published under the name Leo Bruce.

His archive collections at the University of Exeter include: seven scrapbooks; one portrait; photographs; press cuttings; a typescript for an unpublished play; a set of files and envelopes relating to works for 'The Sensual World', his autobiography; a small set of film stills for 'Seven Thunders'; correspondence with publishers; personal letters; fan mail to Rupert Croft-Cooke; and a small group of carbon copies of letters to other writers (copies of letters at the Harry Ransom Centre, Texas).

A full collection description for the literary papers of Rupert Croft-Cooke can be browsed on the online archives catalogue.

Editions of many of Rupert Croft-Cooke's books are held within our Reserve Collection, catalogued under the local classmark: Reserve 828.9/CRO-3. You can browse the titles in the library catalogue

Papers of Angela du Maurier (EUL MS 207/5, EUL MS 276)

Angela du Maurier (1904-2002) was the eldest of the three du Maurier sisters. She originally planned to be an actress and spent two seasons on the stage. During the Second World War, she worked as an ambulance driver in London. In the 1930s, she began to work as a writer. Her first novel, 'The Little Less', was initially rejected by publishers due to its lesbian content. She published eleven books in total, including two volumes of autobiography: 'It's Only the Sister' (1951) and 'Old Maids Remember'. Her works of fiction include 'The Little Less', 'The Road to Leenane', 'Pilgrims by the Way', 'The Perplexed Heart', 'Reveille' and 'Treveryan'. She lived at Ferryside, the family house in Cornwall, for most of her life. Angela du Maurier met her partner Angela Halliday in 1930.

The du Maurier archive collections at the University of Exeter include four notebooks containing manuscript drafts of poetry, a typescript document entitled 'Tributes', photographs, correspondence, and a letter from Angela du Maurier to 'Mrs Powers' relating to media reception of the novel 'The Perplexed Heart' in 1939.

Further information about the papers of Angela du Maurier can be found on the archives catalogue.

Papers of Daphne du Maurier (EUL MS 144, MS 206, MS 207, MS 462)

Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989) grew up in London, but the family developed strong links with Cornwall after buying a riverside house near Fowey, and it was in Cornwall that du Maurier settled. She began publishing stories and articles in 1928; her first novel, 'The Loving Spirit', was published in 1931 by Heineman. There followed 'The Progress of Julius' (Heineman, 1933) and 'Gerald, a portrait' (Gollancz, 1934) before her first enduring success, 'Jamaica Inn', which was published by Gollancz in 1936. Two years later she published her most significant and best-loved novel, 'Rebecca'. Besides these she published a number of other novels, short-stories and biographical portraits, blending history and literary art in some, while developing her own unique vision of the macabre in others. Du Maurier used both male and female narrators in her novels and her works often explored themes around gender and sexuality. Until the age of 15 du Maurier had a male alter ego, 'Eric Avon' (see 'Growing Pains: The Shaping of a Writer', p. 59) and she often spoke privately about having a masculine side to her personality (see p. M. Forster, 'Daphne du Maurier, p. 222). During her life, Daphne du Maurier experienced attraction to both men and women, though she did not speak or write publically about her same-sex relationships, with the exception of her feelings for Fernande Yvon in the memoir: 'Growing Pains'. In 1932, she married Frederick A. M. Browning; they had one son and two daughters.

The University of Exeter's Special Collections include literary and personal papers of Daphne du Maurier. The Daphne du Maurier collections include manuscript and typescript drafts, proofs and correspondence.

Further information about the Daphne du Maurier collections (including papers relating to other members of the du Maurier family) can be found on the archives catalogue.

Literary papers of David Rees (EUL MS 271)

David Rees (1936-1993) was born in Surbiton and moved to Exeter to 1968 to take up the position of lecturer at St Luke's College. He became lecturer in education in 1978, when the college became a part of the University of Exeter. He worked at the University until 1984, when he retired early in order to write full-time. He lived with HIV and AIDS, which he talked and wrote about openly. He continued writing until his death in 1993.

David Rees announced that he identified as being gay when he was 37 years old. He had his first novel accepted for publication the same year. Many of his works of fiction were written for young adults and explore same-sex romance and relationships. His novels 'Quintin's Man' (1976) and 'In the Tent' (1979) were the first books for teenagers in the UK to have central gay characters. His novel 'The Milkman's On His Way' (1982) was cited in Parliament during the Section 28 debates in 1988 (Section 28 of the Local Government Act was brought in to 'prohibit the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities').

The archive collection at the University of Exeter comprises literary papers of David Rees dating between c 1975-1993. They include manuscripts, typescripts, correspondence, and reviews collected by Rees.

The literary papers of David Rees have been catalogued and can be browsed via the online archives catalogue.

Books by David Rees are held within our Reserve Collection, catalogued under the classmark Reserve 828.9/REE-9. You can browse the titles in the library catalogue.

Forrest Reid Collection (Reid Coll. and EUL MS 122)

Forrest Reid (1875-1947) was a novelist and literary scholar, born on 24 June 1875, After some years as an apprentice in the tea trade, he went to Christ's College, Cambridge, at the age of thirty and took his degree in 1908 with a second class in the medieval and modern languages tripos. He then settled down to write in Belfast, which, apart from periods of travel, remained his home for the rest of his life. He made annual trips to visit friends in England, including Walter de la Mare and E M Forster. Reid wrote sixteen novels, two volumes of autobiography, two collections of short stories, critical studies of W. B. Yeats and Walter de la Mare, and a definitive work on the book illustrators of the 1860s and numerous essays and book reviews. Boyhood and adolescence seen through the understanding eyes of an older man supply the subject of most of Reid's work. Same-sex attraction and love is another recurring theme in many of his novels.

The Reid Book Collection held at the University Library contains 45 print-items, including first editions of each of Reid's books. Amongst the titles are a number of presentation copies bearing Reid's autographs inscriptions, including a first edition of 'The Bracknels' (1911) inscribed by Reid to Henry James. Reid was an ardent admirer of James and fostered an epistolary friendship with the older writer, but James was displeased when Reid dedicated to him 'Garden of God' (1905), a novel with a gay romance as its subject. An account of this incident is given by Reid in his autobiographies. The collection is catalogued under the local classmark: Reid Coll. You can browse the titles in the library catalogue.

The archival content of the collection is small, as the items survive as inserts still enclosed in copies of Reid's books. Further information about the Forrest Reid archive collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

Papers of A.L. Rowse (EUL MS 113)

Alfred Leslie Rowse (1903-1997) was a Cornish historian, poet, diarist, biographer and critic.He was born in Tregonissey near St. Austell, Cornwall. He won a scholarship to Christ Church, Oxford, gaining a first class honours degree in history in 1925 when he was also elected Fellow of All Souls, Oxford (the first man from a working-class background to do so). It was during this period that he established so many of the social contacts with academic, political and literary circles within which he was to move for the remainder of his life. He stood unsuccessfully for parliament at Penryn and Falmouth in 1931 and 1935. He became Sub-Warden of the All Souls but was defeated in his election as Warden in 1952, shortly after which he retired to Trenarren, his Cornish home, for the remainder of his life. He began to publish relatively late in life. He produced a tremendous output of works on both history and Shakespeare between the 1950s and 1980s, and published 65 of his 105 books after the age of 65. A.L. Rowse spoke and wrote openly about his views on sexuality, including his own, and published a book entitled 'Homosexuals in History' (1977).

The A.L. Rowse collections contain both literary and historical manuscripts, typescripts and proofs of various published and unpublished works including articles, poetry, short stories, memoirs and autobiographical material, journals and a wide range of correspondence. 

Further information about the A.L. Rowse collections can be found on the archives catalogue.

Titles from A.L. Rowse's library can be browsed via the library catalogue (classmark: Rowse).

Literary papers and photographs of Denton Welch (EUL MS 123)

Denton Welch (1915-1948) was a novelist and artist. Born in Shanghai, he entered Goldsmiths School of Art in 1933. His time as an art student was cut short when, on 09 June 1935, he was hit by a car while cycling. He sustained several injuries, including a fractured spine. He was paralysed for several months and was able to learn how to walk again, though with difficulty. The accident also resulted in lifelong chronic pain and recurrent kidney and bladder infections.

Towards the end of 1939, Welch sold his first painting to the oil company Shell. His paintings were also exhibited in several art galleries in London. Welch wrote an autobiographical novel, which was published in 1943 as 'Maiden Voyage'. That same year, Denton Welch was introduced to and fell in love with Eric Oliver (d 1995). The relationship endured for the rest of his life. Welch's second novel, 'Youth is Pleasure', was published two years later. A number of Welch's short stories, all in effect autobiographical, were published during his lifetime. Within the space of only eight years, he completed some sixty short stories, all published posthumously, three novels, and a quarter of a million words of journals. He also continued to draw and paint, and nine of his late paintings were reproduced in 'A Last Sheaf' (1951). It took him four years to write his third, and posthumously published, novel, 'A Voice through a Cloud' (1950), an account of the accident itself and his struggle to convalesce. The manuscript was found beside his bed when he died at home in Kent in 1948. During the last four years of his life he had lived with and been cared for by his partner, Eric Oliver.

His archive includes photographs, letters, and manuscript drafts of his stories. The archive can be browsed via the online archives catalogue.

Special Collections also holds a small collection of published items by Denton Welch, including catalogues, first editions, copies of biographies and editions of the journals, poems and paperback editions. This is catalogued under the local classmark: Welch Coll. You can browse the titles in the library catalogue.

Reserve Collection

The Reserve Collection includes books by LGBTQ+ writers and/or exploring themes around sexuality and gender identity. Simply visit the Library Catalogue, search the author's name, and select 'Special Collections' from the drop-down menu. The Reserve Collection also includes:

- collections of short stories by gay men:

  • Cracks in the Image: Stories by Gay Men (1981), edited by Richard Dipple [Reserve 808.831 CRA]
  • Messer Rondo & Other Stories by Gay Men (1983), edited by Stephen Airey and David Rees [Reserve 808.831 AIR]
  • The Freezer Counter: Stories by Gay Men (1989), edited by David Rees and Peter Robins [Reserve 808.831 REE]  
  • Fabulous Tricks: Stories by Gay Men (1992), edited by David Rees, Peter Robins, and Dave Royle [Reserve 808.831 REE]

- and interviews with gay writers:

  • Talking to-- : Peter Burton in conversation with ... writers writing on gay themes (1991), by Peter Burton [Reserve 809.89288 BUR]

LGBTQ+ Digital Collections

Exeter University Library LGBTQ+ Resources LibGuide

Exeter University Library LGBTQ+ Reading List

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