Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Sexual Crime

How was both consensual sexual activity, including homosexuality, and acts of sexual violence (including rape) policed, charged, and punished in Victorian Britain?


Sources for this seminar include discussion of homophobia, rape, sexual violence, and child abuse.

Optional intro material: TBC

Seminar preparation questions:

  • Did the 'Maiden tribute of modern Babylon' episode reveal more about the tabloid press than about child prostitution?
  • Was domestic violence a fact of everyday life in Victorian England?
  • What does a study of sexual crime reveal about class and gender in Victorian Britain?
  • How did local communities react to sexual offenders?

Essential seminar reading:


  • C. Conley, ‘Rape and Justice in Victorian England’, Victorian Studies, 29 (1986)
  • Harry Cocks, 'Prosecuting the 'Unnatural Crime'', Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the Nineteenth Century (2003), pp. 15-48.

Further reading:


  • C. Bacchi and J. Jose, 'Historicising Sexual Harrassment', Women's History Review, 3 (1994), pp. 263-70
  • Lois Bibbings, Binding Men: Stories about Law and Violence in Victorian England
  • A. Clark, Women's Silence, Men's Violence: Sexual Assault in England, 1770-1845
  • Harry Cocks, Nameless Offences: Homosexual Desire in the Nineteenth Century
  • C. Conley, The Unwritten Law: Criminal Justice in Victorian Kent
  • S. D’Cruze, Crimes of Outrage: Sex, Violence and Victorian Working Women
  • S. D'Cruze, 'Sex, violence and local courts: working-class respectability in a mid-nineteenth-century Lancashire town', British Journal of Criminology, 39 (1999)
  • 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)
  • Louise A. Jackson, Child sexual abuse in Victorian England
  • Morris Kaplan, 'Did "My Lord Gomorrah Smile? : homosexuality class and prostitution in the Cleveland Street Affair', in George Robb and Nancy Erber (eds), Disorder in the Court
  • Anne-Marie Kilday and David Nash, Cultures of Shameespecially chapter 6
  • Roy Porter, ‘Rape: Does it Have a Historical Meaning?’, in S. Tomaselli and Roy Porter, Rape
  • A. Simpson, ‘Vulnerability and the Age of Female Consent: Legal Innovation and its Effect on Prosecution for Rape in Eighteenth-Century London’, in G. S. Rousseau and R. Porter (eds), Sexual Underworlds of the Enlightenment
  • R. Trumbach, 'Sex, Gender and Sexual Identity in Modern Culture: Male Sodomy and Female Prostitution in Englightenment London', Journal of the History of Sexuality, 2 (1991), pp. 186-203
  • D. M. Turner, ‘Popular Marriage and the Law: Tales of Bigamy at the Eighteenth-Century Old Bailey’, London Journal, 30:1 (2005), pp. 6–21.