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By Virginia Berridge, Philip Strong

The appearance of AIDS has ended in a revival of curiosity within the historic courting of sickness to society. There now exists a brand new attention of AIDS and historical past, and of AIDS itself as an historical occasion. this gives the starting-point of this number of essays. Its dual issues are the 'pre-history' of the influence of AIDS, and its next background. Essays within the part at the 'pre-history' of AIDS examine the contexts opposed to which AIDS will be measured. The part on AIDS as background provides chapters by way of historians and coverage scientists on such themes as British and US medicinal drugs coverage, the later years of AIDS guidelines within the united kingdom and the emergence of AIDS as a political factor in France. a last bankruptcy appears to be like on the archival power within the AIDS region. As a complete the amount demonstrates the contribution that historians could make within the research of near-contemporary occasions.

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20 This not only threatened (at least in New Right discourse, if not elsewhere) the hierarchy of difference between men and women, adults and children represented by the traditional model of the family, but also made public what was best confined to the decency of the private sphere. It was an historic accident that HIV disease first manifested itself in the gay populations of the east and west coasts of the United States, and subsequently in similar populations throughout the west. But that chance shaped, and has continued to form, the social and cultural response to AIDS.

Uncertainty and confusion, in turn, provided the elements for a moral mobilisation around sexual issues, which has given sexuality a new political salience. This is most dramatically illustrated by the emergence since the 1970s of a new conservatism, often allied - though less so in Britain than elsewhere to fundamentalist religion, which has focused a great deal of energy on key moral issues: abortion, above all, especially in the USA, but also such themes as sex education and, most obviously in relation to AIDS, the claims of lesbian and gay politics.

For the upholders of legal absolutism and for the morally conservative the approach represented an abandonment of moral standards in favour of moral relativism. During the subsequent decades the legislative revolution of the 1960s became for many the symbol of all that had gone wrong in 'the sixties', the decade of supposed sexual liberation and moral collapse. '14 But for some of the radical forces that emerged from the late 1960s, around feminism and gay liberation, the reforms were a symbol also, but this time of a failed liberalism, too little, too late.

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