A journey back in time to find out why legislation was passed so unexpectedly in the UK in 1885 to make homosexual behaviour illegal - a law that led to the prosecution of tens of thousands of men until it was repealed eight decades later, but not before the prosecution of Oscar Wilde led to a moment of fear, unprecedented in modern British history, for those whose lives made them vulnerable.
This is not just an important work in an emerging gay history, it is also a fascinating glimpse of a society remarkably like our own, coming to terms with massive social and technological change in the 1880s and 1890s. It explains some of the background to this massive social shift - a clash between purity campaigners and those, like Wilde, who believed he could live a new kind of life. It also finds the origins of the new law in the ferment of politics in Dublin, and the first fully-fledged sex scandal that erupted in the summer of 1884.
Scandal is also a voyage of discovery for the author into the secret world of his own great-great-grandfather, who fled Dublin at the height of the scandal - only to find himself forced to escape a second time, this time from London, ten years later. It was the revelation of this second escape, and just how widespread it was, that led to the research into this book.