1st Edition

Obscene Traffic Prostitution and Global Migrations from the Italian Perspective (1890–1940)

By Laura Schettini Copyright 2023

    This book explores the early globalization of prostitution from the perspective of the Italian case.

    It is a story of prostitution, migration, and work, built through analyses of primary sources (the Italian archive of International Police) and covering a wide chronological period, from the end of the nineteenth century through the Second World War.

    It is the story of Giuseppa, Virginia, and many others who embarked from Italian ports in the 1890s to work in brothels in Egypt, Libya, and Malta, but also that of Marguerite, one of the numerous foreign prostitutes working in Italy in the 1930s. It is the story of Mariella, forced by her husband Beniamino to work as a prostitute in the United States while pregnant in the 1900s, of Francesco, who on the eve of the Second World War recruited young natives to work in his cabarets in Panama. It is the story of a passionate diplomat committed to the League of Nations’ fight against the white slave traffic but also of police officers, consuls, and ministers more concerned about their nation’s reputation than women’s rights.

    This book, aimed at students, scholars and non-profit organizations, illustrates the complexity of the world of prostitution as it transformed into a transnational market, its links with migration processes and colonial expansion, as well as its relevance as a (inter-)national political issue.

    Prostitution, Work, and Global Migration: An Introduction. Part 1: Routes. 1. Across the Mediterranean 2. The Americas. Part 2: Global Prostitution in Italy. 3. Italian Politics and International Prostitution 4. Global Prostitution in Italy 5. Conclusions.


    Laura Schettini teaches Gender and Women’s History at the University of Padua (Italy). Her research interests include the history of sexuality, women's migration, and police. Her first book, Travestimenti e paure sociali tra Otto e Novecento (2011) won the 2012 Prize of the Italian Society of Contemporary History.