Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Question from Jemma - Promiscuous women and crime in London

Hi there,

I am a second year history student at Canterbury Christ Church Uni in the UK and am planning my dissertation on the study of promiscuous women and their relation to crime in Early Modern London (1450-1750.

I need some suggestions for primary and secondary sources, I have found a few in the National Archives at Kew - court records and defamation cases etc. Does anyone have any ideas please? I'd be very grateful :)




Marilyn R said...

Do you mean crime within their own profession, or links with other criminal fraternities? For some of the time prostitution wasn't illegal as long as it was restricted to specially licenced premises,mostly south of the Thames.

The Bishops of Winchester, of all people, leased properties to the licensed brothel-keepers. John Strype tells us that the licensing of these ‘stews’ or ‘hothouses’had started in the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), and in the reign of Richard II (1379-1399) one of the landlords was William Walworth, Lord Mayor of London. Henry VIII had them closed down in 1546 for health reasons, but only a few years later they had revived, with Bishop Latimer complaining to Henry’s young son and successor that, ‘I hear say there is now more Whoredom in England than ever there was...’ John Strype :Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster; published 1720 and based upon John Stow’s Survey of London, 1598.

Have you seen ‘The Winchester Goose’ by Judith Arnopp that came out in December? It might be worth seeing is she could give a few tips.

There’s also the prologue in ‘Henry VIII’s Last Victim’ by Jessie Childs about Henry Howard, earl of Surrey. It’s only two pages long but is very atmospheric: foggy night, working girls of Southwark waiting for clients to appear, reflection from candlelight on the river indicates approaching boat, etc.

Jemma said...

Thank you Marilyn, that's really helpful! I am looking at prostitution as a crime when it was illegal, and possibly infanticide, I'm not completely sure.

Will definitely look at what you have recommended.

Foose said...

Eleanor Hubbard recently published a book called City Women: Money, Sex and the Social Order, which has received some very favorable reviews.

It's titanically expensive even for a scholarly book, but if you go on Amazon, call up the book, click on the "Look inside" link, and then type "prostitution" into the "Search inside this book" field on the right-hand side, you will be able to read much of her discussion on how prostitution was perceived as relating to street crime in the late Elizabethan period ("Crime and Prostitution," pp. 224-30, a subhead within the chapter "Her Honest Labor.")

I don't know how long this will be accessible, though.

Hubbard's book also makes the interesting point that the Elizabethan patriarchy was generally amenable and even supportive to the idea of women working - at home (i.e., running their business, trade or skill from within the home).

What the authorities and society did not like was women working outside the home - which was perceived as inevitably leading to "gadding about" the streets, attracting male attention, gossiping, quarreling, slandering neighbors, stirring up trouble, leading to that pet Tudor horror, civil disorder. Perhaps this attitude might have bled into the sex trade - stews and brothels could be licensed and controlled, the women confined within, but streetwalkers are by definition "gadding about" and affording opportunities for street crime and disorder.

tudor princess said...

Dear Jemma

You are the third student from this university to ask for assistance on their dissertation.

Although we all love to help with requests, I think it is about time that you and your fellow students learn to use the resources you have (like a library?)

I would like to point out that this is what I had to do (and no on-line help either) when I was an undergraduate and I also had to select the topic of my dissertation too!

I am sure that you are all capable of this, independent study is why you are at university in the first place.


Jemma said...

Thank you for all your help guys, the book you recommended "Foose" is extremely expensive but I guess that's what a student loan is for!

"Tudor princess" - if you're not here to help, please don't comment. I use our university library regularly, sorry you had to do your dissertation without any help, but times have changed.

Thanks :)

Anonymous said...

That's a little rude to be honest. Time's have changed and not everything can be found on the internet or even a library! This is a question and answer blog, therefore for people to ask questions ... I don't see you having ago at anyone else asking a question. Just because Jemma and the others were honest enough to say its for their dissertation. I'm sure, from experience, that now'days you can't just do any old topic its has to be something uncommon and therefore less resources (like in a library!) I really don't see why you had to comment so negatively!

Lara said...

Okay, I think everyone has had their say on the non-topic part of this thread, so if you intend to comment on this question again, please make it on topic. I like to try to keep this blog as helpful and friendly as possible. Thanks!