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"Vampires Upon The Nation’s Health": an Insight into Scottish Governance of Prostitution in The Early-twentieth Century

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The purpose of this dissertation is to explore both the geographical background and noteworthy cases of prostitution in the early-twentieth century. Therefore, one will aim to discover the locations of supposed problematic areas, the ‘types’ of prostitute who inhabited Scotland, how the legislation in place perceived and managed these woman, and finally, whether this changed throughout the early- twentieth century and within the evidence given to subsequent Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution.

To contextualise, historiography of female prostitution has been widely examined in a number of different ways. Firstly, a feminist interpretation is present when studying this subject. Work by Helen Self for example, has suggested that government legislation of the period, legitimised and embodied the historical labelling of female prostitution and women alike, whilst embalming the “desire to contain female sexuality within a patriarchal society”. In addition, Self argues that the Wolfenden Committee created a “climate of vulnerability”, of which there is little regard amongst policy makers to protect those within the occupation. The methodical composition of Carol Smart integrates a similar theory, of which she identifies governmental legislation as a reaction to the perceived threat of liberal female sexuality on the “vulnerable nuclear family”.

Furthermore, the analysis of prostitution has been favoured in an English context, of which it has been suggested that the problem of prostitution is more prevalent than within Scotland. For Jeffrey Weeks, an approach of redefining relationship of law and “private moral terrain of the citizen”, [footnoteRef:6] both female sexuality and other sexual ‘deviances’ were monitored. This leaves an imbalance and minimalistic analysis of prostitution within Scotland outwith the First and Second World War. In spite of this, historians such as Gayle Davis and Rodger Davidson have provided a foundation on such subject. As such, Davis and Davidson have conducted an analysis of Scottish provisions in place, the written and oral evidence submitted to the Wolfenden Committee and the reaction to of Scottish opinion to recommendations. Furthermore, Louise Settle, provides focus upon the geography of the prostitute and suggests that they remained within the centre of cities throughout the twentieth century.

It is also important to discuss why this particular timeline for this dissertation has been chosen to analyse. It is possible to argue that due to the twentieth century being fragmented by world wars and subsequent consequences, the events surrounding both in the years before and after seem to from different eras. Thus, for proper analysis, one believes that the Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution is place which has both these more modern opinions whilst still upholding the existing pre-war ideals of society.

In order to gather an accurate and general perception of the Scottish prostitute, one must look at an array sources. As such, the first chapter will make use of the work by Louise Settle, who has provided a number of primary maps and numerical statistics in her work, ‘The Social Geography of Prostitution in Edinburgh, 1900-1939’. One will also benefit from newspaper articles published throughout this period, such articles, will provide claims of ‘annoyance’ in certain areas throughout Scotland. However, it is important to note the tendency of exaggeration and scandal within the media.

As a one of the first cases of publicised prostitution, alike to Chapter One will analysis media coverage through the use of newspaper articles in order to discuss the portrayal of the prostitute within court and wider public opinion. Furthermore, The National Archives of Scotland, have provided criminal court files, of which will provide further detail into the court case, and how those within treated those on trial: both the prostitute and ‘pimp-like’ men. Chapter Three Sources: For the final chapter, one will look at the ‘Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution’ (1957), as a whole. As a legislative source, it not only brings light to the political opinions towards prostitutes within this period, but also a medical or psychological factor. Of which it provides an identification of the psychological make-up of the prostitute. In spite of this, and as Smart has argued, “The major concern of the report was homosexuality, with prostitution appearing as something of an after-thought, an additional problem for the committee to resolve as a consequence of the pressure exerted over the Government”. Therefore, it may be concluded that the Committee spent disproportionate amounts of its resources and time on the two issues, of which this is shown in the primary sources mentioned within The National Archives of Scotland, through a series of letters written by E. Freeman. Furthermore, the sources tends to focus more upon it’s English counterpart, rather than Scotland due to there being much less controversy on the subject.

Thus, to resolve this problem, one will use sources such as, official and non-official evidence and records submitted by Scottish experts and witnesses. This will include the opinions of members of the committee such as Mary Cohen, former chairwoman of the Glasgow Union of Girls’ Clubs and member of the National Vigilance Association of Scotland.

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“Vampires Upon The Nation’s Health”: An Insight Into Scottish Governance Of Prostitution In The Early-Twentieth Century. (2020, Jun 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 25, 2021, from
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“Vampires Upon The Nation’s Health”: An Insight Into Scottish Governance Of Prostitution In The Early-Twentieth Century. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 25 Jul. 2021].
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