A private Contagious Diseases Act: prostitution and public space in Victorian Cambridge

Author: Howell, P.

Source: Journal of Historical Geography, Volume 26, Number 3, July 2000 , pp. 376-402(27)

Publisher: Academic Press

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In Britain the regulation of prostitution became a matter of urgency in the middle and later decades of the nineteenth century, most famously in the Contagious Diseases Acts of the 1860s. Ā«RegulationistĀ» policy attempted to isolate, segregate and domesticate prostitutional activity, resulting in a spatial order with clear class and gender biases. A precursor of regulationism exists however in the special powers held by the University of Cambridge to apprehend, inspect and detain suspected prostitutes. This paper examines the nature of this regulationist system, and the way that it produced a geography of prostitution in nineteenth-century Cambridge. The background and experiences of women caught up in the system of registration, inspection and detention are also examined. These policies did not go unchallenged, and their growing vulnerability to being represented as authoritarian and anachronistic is ultimately highlighted for the light it sheds on the understanding of other attempts at the regulation of prostitution.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place, Cambridge, CB2 3EN, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2000

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