Prostitution in Bristol and Nantes, 1750-1815: A Comparative Study
thesisposted on 02.03.2012, 12:14 by Marion Pluskota
This thesis is centred on prostitution in Nantes and Bristol, two port cities in France and England, between 1750 and 1815. The objectives of this research are fourfold: first, to understand the socio-economic characteristics of prostitution in these two port cities. Secondly, it aims to identify the similarities and the differences between Nantes and Bristol in the treatment of prostitution and in the evolution of mentalités by highlighting the local responses to prostitution. The third objective is to analyse the network of prostitution, in other words the relations prostitutes had with their family, the tenants of public houses, the lodging-keepers and the agents of the law to demonstrate if the women were living in a state of dependency. Finally, the geography of prostitution and its evolution between 1750 and 1815 is studied and put into perspective with the socio-economic context of the different districts to explain the spatial distribution of prostitutes in these two port cities. The methodology used relies on a comparative approach based on a vast corpus of archives, which notably includes judicial archives and newspapers. Qualitative and quantitative research allows the construction of relational databases, which highlight similar patterns of prostitution in both cities. When data is missing and a strict comparison between Nantes and Bristol is made impossible, extrapolations and comparisons with studies on different cities are used to draw subsequent conclusions. As a result, this thesis offers a unique picture of provincial prostitution in eighteenth-century port cities in France and England. It shows that women were using prostitution as a strategy of survival and on a casual basis and, if forced by economic necessities to do so, they kept a certain independence towards the people they met on a daily-basis. This thesis also shows, thanks to the comparative approach, that local events had a great influence on the shift of attitudes towards prostitution. It highlights, through the study of the dialectic national-local discourses, the specificities of local responses to prostitution and the importance of considering change of mentalités as a result of long- and short- term developments. Finally, this study also brings to light the similarities in attitudes towards prostitution which transcended the English and French national framework.