Prostitution in Twentieth-Century Europe
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This book places prostitution at the very centre of European history in the twentieth century. With its wide geographical focus from Italy to the USSR via Sweden, Germany, occupied Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, as well as the international stage of the United Nations, the book encourages comparative perspectives, which have the potential to question, deconstruct and re-adjust distinctions between western, eastern, northern and southern European historical experiences.
Despite the proliferation of diverse historical research on commercial sex in recent years and the recognition of the continued political salience of the topic, prostitution has remained on the margins of the historiography of twentieth-century Europe. The book moves beyond exploring state-regulated prostitution, which was the dominant approach to managing commercial sex across Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. State regulation combined police surveillance, the registration of women selling sex (or suspected of doing so), and compulsory medical examinations for registered women, as well as various restrictions on personal movement and freedom. The nine chapters shift focus onto the decades after the abolition of state-regulated prostitution well into the second half of the twentieth century to examine the ruptures and continuities in state, administrative and policing practices following the end of widespread legal toleration. The varied chronology extends the parameters of existing historiography and explores how states grappled to understand, or impose control over, the commercial sex industry following the far-reaching social, economic and political upheaval of the Second World War.
The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of European Review of History.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Prostitution in twentieth century Europe 1. Prostitution as non-labour leading to forced labour. Vagrancy and Gender in Sweden and Stockholm, 1919–1939 2. Police and prostitution in Yugoslavia: a nuanced relationship 3. Why we need a history of prostitution in the Holocaust 4. Tensions of abolitionism during the negotiation of the 1949 ‘Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others’ 5. Prostitution in socialist Yugoslavia: from Stalinism to the Yugoslav way 6. The new face of Italian prostitution in the aftermath of the Merlin Law: forms, debate and repression 7. Selling sex under socialism: prostitution in the post-war USSR 8. ‘Cleaning up the cityscape’: managing commercial sex and city space in Cologne, 1956–1972 9. Greek trans women selling sex, spaces and mobilities, 1960s–80s
Sonja Dolinsek has worked on a doctoral project on the transnational history of anti-trafficking and the politics of prostitution after 1945 with a focus on Germany, France, the United Kingdom and USA.
Siobhán Hearne is a historian of gender and sexuality in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. She is the author of Policing Prostitution: Regulating the Lower Classes in Late Imperial Russia (2021), as well as various articles about prostitution, venereal diseases and pornography in imperial Russian and Soviet history.