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Tony Henderson. London and New York: Longman, Prostitutes in Eighteenth-Century London. Tony Henderson's Disorderly Women in Eighteenth-Century London seeks to fill a void in the historiography of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century prostitution.
Most studies that have appeared thus far have concentrated on either the trade of prostitution, such as L. Basserman's The Oldest Profession and F. Henriques' Prostitution and Society ; or of reform movements dealing with prostitution, such as V. Mahood's The Magdalenes ; or legal histories dealing with prostitution, such as S. Henderson, however, has attempted to produce a history of prostitutes, explaining where they came from, why they turned to prostitution, the conditions of their lives, and contemporary attitudes toward them.
His exquisitely organized, well-researched book succeeds in many ways. Prostitutes, Henderson asserts, reflected the general makeup of London's poor. Prostitutes were usually born into poverty, often orphaned or abandoned, and attained little education or marketable job skills. A sizable minority approximately forty percent of prostitutes came from London; the remaining sixty percent immigrated from the countryside or Ireland.
These figures are not all that different from an analysis of the birthplaces of all of London's urban poor. Prostitutes tended to be in their late teens or early twenties; very few young girls entered into prostitution. Most of London's prostitutes entered into prostitution on a full- or part-time basis because of economic need and their lack of other marketable skills.
Most of London's prostitutes were independent streetwalkers. For self protection they tended to work in pairs or small groups. Very few streetwalkers had pimps or madams; most worked independently and kept the majority of their wages for themselves.