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Key Texts

Timothy Gilfoyle, ‘Prostitutes in history: from parables of pornography to metaphors of modernity’, American Historical Review, 1999

Philip Howell, ‘A private Contagious Diseases Act: prostitution and public space in Victorian Cambridge’, Journal of Historical Geography, 2000

Philippa Levine, ‘A multitude of unchaste women: prostitution in the British empire’, Journal of Women’s History, 2004

William Acton, Prostitution [in Defining Gender, electronic resource]

W. T. Stead, 'Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon', Pall Mall Gazette, 1885 [online resource on Stead including full text]

Seminar Questions

  • How was the figure of the prostitute constructed by Victorian Society?
  • Why did women become prostitutes?
  • Did regulation create a geography of prostitution (including in the British empire)?
  • What solutions did contemporaries have for the problem of vice in the nineteenth-century city and how successful were they?
  • Did the 'Maiden tribute of modern Babylon' episode reveal more about the tabloid press than about child prostitution?

Further Reading

Paula Bartley, Prostitution

Paula Bartley, ‘Moral regeneration: women and the civic gospel in Birmingham, 1870-1914’, Midland History, 2000

Paula Bartley 'Preventing prostitution : the Ladies' Association for the Care and Protection of Young Girls in Birmingham, 1887-1914', Women's History Review, 7 (1998)

Lucy Bland, Banishing the Beast: English Feminism and Sexual Morality

Pamela Cox, 'Compulsion, Voluntarism, and Venereal Disease : Governing Sexual Health in England after the Contagious Diseases Acts'. Journal of British Studies, 46 (2007)

F Finnegan, Poverty and Prostitution

T Fisher, Prostitution and the Victorians

Deborah Gorham, 'The "Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon" re-examined : child prostitution and the idea of childhood in late Victorian England.' Victorian Studies, 21 (1978)

G Hodges, ‘Flaneurs, Prostitutes and Historians: Sexual commerce in the nineteenth-century metropolis’, Journal of Urban History, 1997 (Review article)

Matt Houlbrook, ‘Toward a historical geography of sexuality’, Journal of Urban History, 2001

Susan Kingsley-Kent, Sex and Suffrage in Britain

Philippa Levine, Prostitution, race, and politics : policing venereal disease in the British Empire

Maria Luddy, Prostitution and Irish society, 1800-1940

Philip Howell, David Beckingham, and Francesca Moore, 'Managed zones for sex workers in Liverpool : contemporary proposals, Victorian parallels', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 33 (2008)

Lesley Mahood, The Magdalenes. Prostitution in the nineteenth century

Michael Mason, The Making of Victorian Sexuality

Keith Neild, Prostitution in the Victorian age : debates on the issue from nineteenth-century critical journals

Julie Peakman, ‘Memoirs of women of pleasure: the whore biography’, Women’s Writing, 2004

E M Sigsworth and T J Wyke, ‘A study of Victorian prostitution’ in Vicinus (ed.), Suffer and Be Still

Jon Stobart, 'The local demography of deviance : crime, illegitimacy and prostitution in Britain 1700-2000', Local Population Studies, 80 (2008)

J Tosh, A Man’s Place

Judy Walkowitz, Prostitution and Victorian Society

Judy Walkowitz, ‘Jack the Ripper and the myth of male violence’, Feminist Studies, 8 (1982)

Judy Walkowitz, City of Dreadful Delight

Judy Walkowitz and Jane Caplan, 'Male vice and feminist virtue : feminism and the politics of prostitution in nineteenth-century Britain', History Workshop, 13 (1982)

Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Found (Birmingham City Art Gallery)