I come to Paula Bartley's book as someone who has for a number of years, been examining the extent and nature of prostitution in Ireland. Attitudes towards prostitutes and prostitution within Irish culture were in many ways similar to those that prevailed in England. They were also distinctly different.
This book is impressively detailed, showing women's experience of demobilisation and the aftermath of armed conflict - an often neglected area of military study relating to women - as well as their feelings about morality, their male counterparts, uniforms, duties and a slew of other subjects.
This is a relatively short book by Britain's leading historian of sexuality, but it has a big agenda. Drawing on a wide range of primary and secondary sources, Lesley Hall discusses the shifts, the continuities and the changes in sexual custom and practice that prevailed between 1880 and the present day.
The articulation of a national network of elementary schools in England and Wales after 1870 and legislation to compel attendance at these schools from 1880 created marvellous opportunities for publishers. School authorities were major purchasers and the children in their schools a captive audience.
Pornography used to be regarded as ephemeral, trivial and unimportant. Insofar as it had a history, it was as one aspect of the long battle for, and ultimate triumph of, free speech. Histories of literary censorship and legal obscenity by writers like H.
Laura E. Nym Mayhall begins her book by re-telling the familiar story of the arrest in 1909 of Marion Wallace Dunlop, a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), which led to her imprisonment and notoriety as the ‘first hunger striker’. In doing so, she focuses on the action that led to the arrest.
Since the 1960s, popular leisure has been studied by successive generations of British social historians. Questions of class, of culture and of identity have been central to the development of this literature. Celebrations of distinctively plebeian customs have contended with pessimistic analyses of mass culture as a form of social control.
James M. Smith’s book, Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries and the Nation’s Architecture of Containment (2007) fills a significant gap in research about the Magdalen laundries and their impact on Irish society. Frances Finnegan’s Do Penance or Perish (2001) has also tackled the subject, but her study is confined to the Good Shepherd asylums that operated in Ireland.
In 1886 the Glasgow Prayer Union (GPU) remembered in their customary prayers a woman across whom one of its ‘ladies’ had come. She had been ‘found lying very drunk near Cattle Market with young infant’. Concerned for the infant’s life, the unnamed philanthropist (not a word Smitley uses) takes the child to the nearby police station, ‘where the woman was also taken’ (p. 44).
Chocolate, writes Emma Robertson in the introduction to her monograph, ‘has been invested with specific cultural meanings which are in part connected to … conditions of production’ (p. 3). At the heart of this study is a challenge to existing histories: