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The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the… (2009)

by Dan Cruickshank

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1173186,203 (3.89)1
Georgian London evokes images of elegant buildings & fine art, but it was also a city where prostitution was rife & thousands of people were dependent on the wages of sin. The sex industry was, in fact, a very powerful force indeed, & in this book, Dan Cruickshank shows how it came to affect almost every aspect of life in the capital.… (more)
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Not about the ordinary sex lives of Georgian Londoners but about prostitution and how this business became the backbone to create Georgian London. How women used it as a way to survive and sometimes (rarely) to thrive and above all a way to make money. How they were treated, how they were exploited and how society often turned a blind eye on what was going on, most of the time.

In many ways prostitution was a way to get around the restrictions placed on a woman if she married in the period, a way for women to retain some of the income they got, but it was hard and most of them die young. There were also those who believed that they could cure the pox by using virginal young children (which is all the wrong, but still perpetuated).

I found it an interesting contrast to some of the regency romances I was reading at the same time and do think that it should be compulsory reading for Regency fiction writers. To know why it wasn't just for show that women took companions with them places, but for serious protection.

It felt a bit bitty and I wanted more from it but I do think it achieved it's purpose, examining how London was a town built by and for sex. ( )
1 vote wyvernfriend | Aug 8, 2016 |
This book is a detailed history of sex in eighteenth and early nineteenth century London, where its commercial exploitation played a major part in the city's economy and even its architecture. Dan Cruickshank has here pulled together a vast amount of data, mostly in official records and literary pamphlets, which demonstrates the existence of an astonishing number of people involved in the sex industry, at a time when laws were struggling to keep pace with the rapidly changing social life in the expanding city. He has aimed to provide a broad-brush impression of life in the Capital, while including large numbers of illustrative cameos based on the many colourful characters who were active at the time. In particular, Cruickshank gives a wealth of detail on the generally subservient role of women, and many details concerning the notable females who managed to swim successfully against the tide of male oppression. It is a mighty book, with 568 pages of text supported by a further 85 of supporting notes and bibliographic data, and it will be valued as a source for those interested in understanding Georgian society, partly because it refuses to be coy about how people of both sexes enjoyed each other. Such aspects are by no means peripheral to an understanding of the times. ( )
3 vote CliffordDorset | Dec 23, 2013 |
This book is an excellent read. It is meticulously researched, and very well presented. There is a wealth of information, and many, many names. What I like, is that when a name crops up at a page, he refers you back you an earlier page, so you can go back and refresh your memory. An excellent tool indeed.

The book is timely, in that it does great service to the women who have often been abused by people of power. Some of these women rose to power, and then died in misery. The tale of Ann Bell is really sad indeed. It is also very interesting to see how many characters of British fiction have been modeled on the players who walked on the world's stage at that time. It does shed clarity on the mores and morals of the times, and some of the poetry is really quite explicit. Good poetry, and well done!

The book opened my eyes to the happenings of the times, and I must say that I was quite riveted by the book.

A book I recommend to any history buff. ( )
  RajivC | Oct 1, 2013 |
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Georgian London was the product of a potent mix of economic and social forces.
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Georgian London evokes images of elegant buildings & fine art, but it was also a city where prostitution was rife & thousands of people were dependent on the wages of sin. The sex industry was, in fact, a very powerful force indeed, & in this book, Dan Cruickshank shows how it came to affect almost every aspect of life in the capital.

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