Victorian Vices: Prostitution and the Victorian Modern Babylon

Ref: C2346527

As the ‘oldest profession’, prostitution was no new feature of society in the 19th century – but it was more visible in urban areas of the country, and one of the most direct challenges to the Victorian ideal of family life. This lecture will consider the scale of prostitution in Victorian Britain, asking who became a prostitute, and why. In examining attempts to regulate prostitution and ‘rescue’ prostitutes, it will look in particular at the Contagious Diseases Acts of the 1860s, their inequalities, and the campaign to repeal them. It will also focus on the ‘maiden tribute of modern Babylon’ represented by child prostitution, led by the crusading journalist W.T. Stead, who fell foul of the very law that he was attempting to reform; and ask why male homosexuality became an issue towards the end of the 19th century, taking the unsuccessful libel case brought by Oscar Wilde against the Marquis of Queensbury as an example.

Course aim

This lecture will consider attitudes to prostitution in Victorian Britain, along with attempts to regulate it and ‘rescue’ prostitutes, including children. It will also ask why male homosexuality became an issue towards the end of the 19th century,

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Explain why prostitution became such a great social issue during the Victorian period.
  • Assess the success of attempts to regulate or suppress it.
  • Explain why male homosexuality also became an issue in the late 19th century.
  • Know where to access additional sources for further independent study.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

There is nothing you need to know or bring to the lecture.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Victorian Vices: Prostitution and the Victorian Modern Babylon

Enrolment Conditions

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
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  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
  • You declare that the address you provide is correct and that you will provide evidence of this and your eligibility to live and work in the UK
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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