"At the CISH conference a session will discuss the global and comparative history of female prostitution from 1600 to the present. There are many national and local studies on prostitution, but no international comparison over a long period has so far been attempted.
The session will study prostitution as a societal phenomenon as well as prostitutes’ working and living conditions. Over time and space, these have differed greatly. Prostitution has in different times and societies both been accepted and rejected. It has been outlawed, criminalized, regulated, legalised and tolerated. Sometimes, difference has been made between brothels, streetwalking or massage parlours, at other times not. Prostitutes, pimps and madams have been (often) considered outcasts as well as (sometimes) successful entrepreneurs. Prostitutes have been locals and immigrants, and they have entered the business voluntary or forced; sold or free; to escape from, or to sustain their families. Lawmakers and abolition movements have and have not distinguished between white and non-white prostitution. Waves of toleration/regulation and of abolishment/prohibition have succeeded each other. With the rise of colonial empires and increasing globalization since the second half of the nineteenth century, both sex work itself and attitudes towards it, like regulation and abolition, have had entangled histories.
Since prostitution is an overwhelmingly urban phenomenon linked to the evolution of commercial society, the focus will be on cities. We start in the early modern period in order to gauge how practices of and attitudes towards prostitution changed with industrialisation and increasing urbanisation. By including the pre-colonial situation, we are able to discern to what extent prostitution changed with colonisation. Recent developments in migration, communication, legislation and in ideas on sexuality have had a profound impact on sex work, which makes it interesting to include the recent period. Processes of colonisation, changes on labour markets, urbanisation, the rise of state control, military engagements had an important impact on the practice of prostitution and on the societal reactions to it.
We are looking for studies which compare these developments over larger periods of time and /or for different cities." (Bron: CISH)