1st Edition

Prostitution, Race and Politics Policing Venereal Disease in the British Empire

By Philippa Levine Copyright 2003
    490 Pages
    by Routledge

    490 Pages
    by Routledge

    In addition to shouldering the blame for the increasing incidence of venereal disease among sailors and soldiers, prostitutes throughout the British Empire also bore the burden of the contagious diseases ordinances that the British government passed. By studying how British authorities enforced these laws in four colonial sites between the 1860s and the end of the First World War, Philippa Levine reveals how myths and prejudices about the sexual practices of colonized peoples not only had a direct and often punishing effect on how the laws operated, but how they also further justified the distinction between the colonizer and the colonized.

    Introduction1. Comparing Colonial SitesPART I: CONTAGIOUS DISEASES LAWS2. Law, Medicine and Morality: Introducing Contagious Diseases Legislation3. Colonial Medicine and the Project of Modernity4. Diplomacy, Disease and Dissent5. Abolitionism Declawed6. Colonial Soldiers, White Women and the First World WarPART II: RACE, SEX, AND POLITICS7. Prostitution, Race and Empire8. The Sexual Census and the Racialization of Colonial Women9. White Women's Sexuality in Colonial Settings10. 'Not A Petticoat In Sight': The Problem of Masculinity11. Space and Place: The Marketplace of Colonial SexEpilogueBibliography


    Philippa Levine is Professor of History at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. She is the author of the forthcoming A Short History of the British Empire and a contributor to the Oxford History of the British Empire.

    "What a rich and accomplished book this is. The product of prodigious research, it takes late nineteenth and early twentieth century British imperial efforts to regulate prostitution and control venereal disease as the point of departure for a wide-ranging, remarkably illuminating examination of gender and race, medicine and modernity, nation and empire, and, above all, sex and surveillance. Levine marshals a wealth of evidence to show the manifold ways colonial states intervened in the intimate lives of their subjects. This book should be read by all historians of modern Britain and its empire." -- Dane Kennedy, Elmer Louis Kayser Professor of History and International Affairs at George Washington University

    "In this archivally rich, geographically far-reaching and admirably comprehensive study, Philippa Levine offers us the first genuinely transnational account of how and why sexuality was regulated in the modern British Empire. Grounding her sweeping history in four colonial sites, Levine offers irrefutable evidence that the management of sexuality was central to, if not constitutive of, British imperial rule in both ideology and practice. Prostitution, Race and Politics proves without a shadow of a doubt that anxiety about colonial bodies -- and more specifically, about the encounter of European subjects with them -- was fundamental to administrative and political procedures at the highest levels of imperial government." -- Antoinette Burton, Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    "Sexualities globalized, disease prevention internationalized, foreign military interventions rationalized--in this stunning work of feminist history, Philippa Levine reveals how these politically-charged processes, so salient for us today, threaded their ways through the British empire. I'm already making lists of all the people I'm going to urge read Prostitution, Race, and Politics immediately." -- Cynthia Enloe, author of Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives

    "In this wonderfully ambitious book Philippa Levine uses her investigation of colonial policies on sexuality, particularly prostitution and venereal diseases between the 1860s and1918, to explore the fragilities and successes of colonial rule across the British Empire. Focusing on four different sites of empire, from Hong Kong to the Straits Settlements and India to Queensland, her comparisons illuminate both the immense complexity and diversity of that empire and the threads of power and knowledge that connected it. Combining political and institutional narratives with thematic reflections, the methods of cultural and social history with those of medical, political and military history, she cogently demonstrates ways forward for the writing of imperial histories." -- Catherine Hall, University College London

    "Philippa Levine, in this book, gives us a careful and authoritative account of the intense and enduring struggles over prostitution and contagious diseases legislation as they stirred the British Empire from the later 19th century into the 20th. She sensitively explores the links between medicine, gender, and empire in four different colonies; and she sets the whole debate suggestively in the wider context of the ways men and women in the empire confronted their sexuality as colonial authorities endeavored to control it. Historians of empire and of women's studies will find this book an indispensable resource." -- Thomas R. Metcalf, University of California, Berkeley

    "Levine's book is a remarkable piece of work and is to be thoroughly recommended to all students of imperial history." -- Mark Harrison, American Historical Review

    "Throughout this thoroughly readable book, Levine succeeds in digesting and integrating a mass of secondary literature as well as a wealth of archival material, making this both a work of original scholarship and a masterly synthesis. She handles her material with sensitivity, but also with refreshing objectivity and good judgement. She contrives to a degree few scholars have successfully accomplished to combine the view from the metropolitan high ground with the diverse opinions of local administrations and their military and medical advisers." -- David Arnold, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

    "Prostitution, Race and Politics is a tremendous account of the sexual politics of the later British Empire, meticulously researched and at the same time theroetically and methodologically convincing. Invitingly interdisciplinary, it deserves to be a more or less permanent fixture on reading lists for all historians of colonialism and imperialsim, gender, race and sexuality; and it will have about as long a shelf life as anyone would sensibly care to predict.... It is a book that deserves by contrast close reading, re-reading and constant critical engagement with its methodology and analysis. Levine has produced the fullest and most coherent account of the British colonial regulation of sexuality, and Prostitution, Race and Politics will continue for very many years to reward scholars willing to give it this kind of attention." - Philip Howell, Left History