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Essay on The Role Of Prostitution In London

The general topic of this research project will be about women in the streets of London during the time period of 1550-1650. Our specific research topic of women in London will be about prostitutes during the Renaissance. We divided our topic of prostitution into four different categories to work on to deepen the focus that each one of us pays to the topic as a whole. The four categories are: Brothels by Numera Dehri, temporary prostitutes by Janise Scott, street walkers by John Macaluso, and courtesans by Ismael Rosas. Although all prostitution was practiced similarly, many women had different ways and reasons of/for doing the deed.

Most prostitutes stayed in brothels, which were housing and the work place for most of these prostitutes. They were a specific location for men to find many prostitutes. Courtesans stayed in brothels as well, but had different customers. Their customers were rich, powerful, noble men. Then there are the street walkers, who did not stay in brothels, but practiced their occupation out on the street. Most of these women usually didn’t work independently, but worked for someone. All these prostitutes had a choice to become what they are, but there are also the temporary prostitutes, who only needed the money for food or for their families.

Being a woman was, and isn’t still the easiest thing in our society. Many of these categories of prostitutes had locations in Early Modern London that we can incorporate. The brothels were buildings that should have been in one spot for many years. And the street walkers usually had a path, or street, that they would take as a routine route. Determining what to search has been a fairly easy task. We each have divided the subject of prostitutes into four subsections to make the process a tad bit easier. Obviously the word “prostitute” is popular during our searches, but it is paired with “Elizabethan London”, or “1550-1650”.

The search process becomes a bit tricky when delving into searches using our subtopics. Each of us has had our issues, I know there was some frustration when attempting to do a search on “doxies”, and the only results we got were about dogs. Jstor has been okay, but I know two of the really solid sources I was able to find I went through EBSCO. We are mainly focusing on primary sources. The primary sources are rich with secondary sources included in their own works cited page, so we use those secondary sources to build a solid foundation for our primary source.

Some of the really big articles we have found are: “Prostitution in Late Elizabethan London: The Case of Mary Newborough” by Gustav Ungerer, and “Prostitution in Shakespeare’s London” by Wallace Shugg. So far, these are the two articles with the most information. Ungerer’s article is helpful in that it follows the inner workings of brothels the early 1600’s. Popular to contrary belief, the ladies who worked in them were not single (this actually surprised me). Shugg’s article tracks movement and the places in which these ladies of ill repute were most prevalent.

Not only does Shugg’s article name streets and districts in which they resided, he names names, which I find highly amusing. There is no Vegas code when it comes to Elizabethan London it seems. Right now it seems just finding a little more on the traveling prostitutes has been a bit of an issue. We do have a name for them “doxies”, but there is very little regarding them. Since our group is researching the faction of prostitutes in early modern London, we as a whole have decided to break this in to subsections of the certain types of prostitutes that would be on or around the streets during the time period of 1550-1650.

The four subsections of the prostitute will be street walkers, temporary prostitutes, courtesans, and brothel workers. The reason we decided to break it down this way is to broaden the scope of where we would find these types of women and provide location based information to relate to the map of early modern London. Janise will be taking temporary prostitutes, Numera will be going over brothel workers, Ismael is working with courtesans, and John will be researching street walkers or traveling prostitutes. Our group has been fairing well with communication and will plan on doing so as well in the rest of the semester.

We have been diligently using Group Me to communicate and stay on the same page as well as emailing any useful information we find for ourselves or others in the group. Accountability should not be an issue as we have discussed and planned to cover every aspect of our subsections and have agreed that any information found will be shared and talked about so that we can better plan out our overall contribution. As a group we are on track but do have concerns with finding and using legitimate sources that pertain to the overall scope of the project.

It seems to be very easy to find sources pertaining to prostitution in various parts of Europe but has been challenging to find ones that strictly deal with London and that specific time era. We have been doing better as a group to find these sources with the assistance of Dr. Sharpe and Professor Stapelton. Within the remaining time of this semester we are all fairly confident that we will be able to find and utilize entertaining and factual sources to benefit the project as well as our classmates. John plans to write about the street walkers with as much location based information as possible.

Since this subsection is based on traveling prostitutes he will try and research the general location that these women would more commonly be placed. One source that seems particularly useful is Alan James Hogarth’s article about stage coaches and how they were used for transport along with a convenient method for prostitution on the move. John plans to write his section regarding the main locations that traveling prostitutes would more commonly visit and hang around as to better benefit the map of early modern

London. Janise is working on the temporary prostitutes, the women who had a tough choice to make: either sell their bodies, or starve. This group seemed the most interesting to her, doing something that would dishonor themselves in order to feed their families. Hoping that in the long run it would be enough to survive on until something better came along. Right now Janise has a few items that she is waiting to receive from the interlibrary loan system.

There is an article on the structure of prostitution in Elizabethan London, she feels like that would be a perfect fit. Shugg’s article has provided the most information, she has gathered insight on what has possibly driven these women to such desperate means. Janise’s approach to her section will be to start off with the influx of population and the scarceness of jobs, especially for women back then. This would provide motivation for these women making the eventual decision to become prostitutes.

Ismael will be researching the courtesans during the sixteenth and seventeenth century in London. Courtesans were prostitutes for the noble and wealthy class of that time period. To understand the basis of prostitution, Ismael has decided to research sources on literary and historic writings to identify the facts and opinions that these women had. Some of his sources include writings on Shakespeare’s views on prostitutes and other sources include a story of a certain women that has succumb to all the stereotypes prostitutes were given in that time.

How Ismael plans on writing his individual section with extensive knowledge on the subject of courtesans. By reading many primary and secondary sources, he will be able to develop an understanding of these women in order to write a prolific amount. Numera will research the brothels in the time period of early modern London. She will search through online journals and look into maps of that time period to locate the locations of these brothels. Sources she has found are ones of ample usage.

She has not quite figured out how she will go about writing her own section. She hopes to find more information on brothels and that time period that will help her figure out the direction in which to go forth with her section and how to write it. Looking into what the books at the library might offer her, she might broaden her horizons past the internet. This research is worth doing because there is so much in history about all sorts of topics and yet there is very few scattered information about women in this time period.

Everyone has skewed images of what women were back in the 16th and 17th century. You have your prostitutes, you have your royalty and then there are the simple maidens. You should care about their presence because, believe it or not, the women of the streets had more of an influence on history than we give them credit for. They not only influenced the fashion that is still incorporated into today’s clothing for women, but they built the structure of how prostitution is still carried on today in London, such as the Red Light District.

These women of the streets had many interactions with many men, some were even powerful men that these woman could have had the possibility of having some form of influence over. These women went through many struggles of their own and many did not choose this life. But once they were in, they did their part in developing history and putting food on the tables of their families in some cases. There is so much to be yet discovered about these women and their back stories.

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