How prostitution became a significant of London's history during the 18th and 19th century.

Topics: Police, Constable, Brothel Pages: 8 (2477 words) Published: October 6, 2003
Prostitution became a significant of London's history during the 18th and 19th century. At the time, prostitution was a chronic problem of the public order. It became so big in London that it attracted the attention of many groups such as, "the church, the state, the medical profession, philanthropists, feminists and others." (Bartley, 1) All of these groups worked together in order to resolve the problem, even though at the time prostitution was not illegal. However, it was an activity that many felt was socially unacceptable. Prostitution began because Britain was experiencing political and social ferment during the Industrial Revolution. The industrial revolution brought up new social groups, which had struggled to exert themselves politically and culturally. (Fisher, 29) During the 18th & 19th centuries London had many deficiencies in their legal system, which can explain the openness of prostitution. A major factor of this problem lays in the fact that almost none of the laws under which prostitutes were most usually arrested in the 18th century referred to their offence by name. Instead, prostitutes were charged for violating laws. At the time, laws of night walking were put into the system. The main objective was to enforce a dawn-to-dusk curfew, so the police could keep the towns under close watch. London decided that it was time for to get involve and find a solution before the city went out of control. First of all, police officers started by taking more action on the streets. Also, they started policing Disorderly houses. In addition groups such as the Reformers, Commentators, Church and others, used their own methods of resolving this problem. Finally, how did the people of London feel towards prostitution and prostitutes?

The streets were becoming an unsafe environment for the citizens of London. Prostitutes started occupying the streets of London more frequently. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the policing of London's streetwalkers were the responsibility of the constables, beadles, patrol, and watchman. Their duties were to enforce and maintain public order. There was a general police force consisting of upper and under Marshals, marshalmen, day and night patrols and even special forces for certain towns or areas such as the Smithfield area. Each city had twenty-six Wards, which in turn produced their own forces such as constables, beadles, and watchmen. All of these men were able to enforce the laws in the proximity of the Ward. Figure 1 & 2.

"The police force was to be responsible for containing street disorder and averting the danger from the uncontrolled and un-socialized classes, the constable role was to act as a domestic missionary, translating and mediating bourgeois values in working-class communities." (Mahood, 120)

In 1784, day patrol was introduced in Westminster, Nevertheless, "before 1828 no parish anywhere in London had considered it either necessary or desirable to provide... intensive daylight patrols." (Henderson (1), 191) During that time all the resources devoted their time to nightly watch, as they believed it was more of a crucial period of the day for prostitution.

Watchmen were the most intrusive in doing their work, and also reduced the importance of constables. A constable was usually in company with a beadle, whose duties consisted of patrolling the streets of the parish as frequently as possible throughout the night. (Henderson (1),192) However, while on duty, they would instead spend most of their time in a safer area around the watch house. Furthermore, they would not even show up sometimes for duty. Moreover, the Watchman was always expected to be on the streets from dawn till dusk. It was very important for the police to clear up the streets. Solicitors and prostitutes crowded the busy narrow streets of London. It was inevitable either group would come into conflicts with other citizens. The public streets were areas where one could enjoy the view and...
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