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City of Sin: London and Its Vices [Paperback]

Catharine Arnold
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

28 April 2011
If Paris is the city of love, then London is the city of lust. For over a thousand years, England's capital has been associated with desire, avarice and the sins of the flesh. Richard of Devises, a monk writing in 1180, warned that 'every quarter [of the city] abounds in great obscenities'. As early as the second century AD, London was notorious for its raucous festivities and disorderly houses, and throughout the centuries the bawdy side of life has taken easy root and flourished. In the third book of her fascinating London trilogy, award-winning popular historian Catharine Arnold turns her gaze to the city's relationship with vice through the ages. From the bath houses and brothels of Roman Londinium, to the stews and Molly houses of the 17th and 18th centuries, London has always traded in the currency of sex. Whether pornographic publishers on Fleet Street, or fancy courtesans parading in Haymarket, its streets have long been witness to colourful sexual behaviour. In her usual accessible and entertaining style, Arnold takes us on a journey through the fleshpots of London from earliest times to present day. Here are buxom strumpets, louche aristocrats, popinjay politicians and Victorian flagellants -- all vying for their place in London's league of licentiousness. From sexual exuberance to moral panic, the city has seen the pendulum swing from Puritanism to hedonism and back again. With later chapters looking at Victorian London and the sexual underground of the 20th century and beyond, this is a fascinating and vibrant chronicle of London at its most raw and ribald.

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City of Sin: London and Its Vices + Bedlam: London and Its Mad + Necropolis: London and Its Dead
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (28 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847393721
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847393722
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 116,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Catharine Arnold read English at the University of Cambridge and holds a further degree in psychology. She is the author of 'Necropolis London and its Dead', 'Bedlam London and its Mad' City of Sin London and its Vices' and 'Underworld London City of Crime' due to be published July 2012. Catharine's previous books include 'Lost Time' which won a Betty Trask award.

Product Description


`Is London sexy? Catharine's Arnold's sexual history of the capital begins when Southwark was the "Las Vegas of Londinium", but very soon we have exchanged the slave girls of Roman London for the medieval prostitutes of Gropecunt Lane, and then around 1500 the pox arrives and everyone has painful syphilitic buboes...' --The Guardian

About the Author

Catharine Arnold read English at Cambridge and holds a further degree in psychology. A journalist, academic and popular historian, Catharine's previous books include the novel "Lost Time", winner of a Betty Trask award. Her London trilogy for Simon & Schuster comprises of "Necropolis: London and Its Dead", "Bedlam, London and Its Mad" and (to be published August 2010) "City of Sin, London and Its Vices".

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read 8 Sep 2010
By idntknw
After reading Ms Arnold's previous books I picked up City of Sin and was not dissapointed. Personally, this is my favourite title. The book is exactly what the title says. It gives details but at the same time isn't something you would be afraid to be seen reading on the train.

The only negative I have is that it did not have much on the present (1950's +). But, you can't have everything.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sin, vice, everywhere! 5 Jan 2012
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very entertaining story of the history of `sinful vices' in London (although background material often comes from further afield). I have not read any of the author's other books about London - death, and madness are analysed in these books, but will look out for them.

I feel compelled to point out some errors - page 44 states that after King Henry VI of England died, "his son Edward IV" took the throne. Edward IV was in no shape or form Henry VI's son - Henry's son Edward was killed at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. Henry VI was deposed by Edward, son of Richard, Duke of York, who died at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, during the Wars of the Roses. Edward IV went on to rule until his death in 1483.

On page 53, Hugh Weston is listed as Dean of Windsor - he was not Dean of Windsor until 1556, after he was induced to resign as Dean of Westminster on the return of Westminster Abbey to its monastic character. In 1557, he was removed as Dean of Winsor by Cardinal Pole for "gross immorality". Protestant writers (in 1557, Mary I was still the Catholic ruler of England) wrote of Weston's moral delinquincies at the time (including his adultery)

On page 55, I do not believe that Anne Boleyn was charged under the Buggery Act of 1533, although she was charged with adultery and incest. The first conviction under this act was Walter Hungerford in 1540. Although found guilty of "unnatural vices" his real crime was treason (both that of himself as well as his associates) following from the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1536.

From then, I found less to jar my senses.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scholarly.... but funny and sexy. 24 Dec 2011
By marcoscu TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a scholarly and well researched history book that is also both funny and sexy. That sounds like an oxymoron but in fact is quite true. This is indeed an academic work with impeccable and meticulous research but yet is also very readable, indeed I found it hard to put down and having read the Kindle sample I immediately bought the book. How glad I am that I did.

The writing is lively and fast paced and moves along like a holiday novel but unlike with a holiday novel I felt that the time spent reading it was not wasted time. I am now rather better informed about our great city then I was before.

The author deals well with what could be a controversial topic and handles it with wit and humour. She neither moralises nor adopts a laddish a tone whilst at the same time accepting that sex and the sex industry is, was, and always will be a part of London life as it is with any great city. Her sense of humour and sense of fun that shines through her work endears me to her and makes me enjoy the book even more.

This a first rate book and you should buy it at once.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great start but 19 Sep 2011
By cartoon
Was really gripped at the begining but then became bored . Gradually I began to know all the stuff that she was telling me and it became all the usual sinners being trotted out ; Jack the ripper , Oscar Wilde etc etc . Plus I found the 20th century stuff really rushed [ Profumo , Paine ] she had not bothered to dig any deeper than a mail on sunday type of exposee . If you have not read any books on London then this is ok , if not I would look for one that specialises in a particular period and will give more depth .
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bodice ripper 8 Oct 2010
Truly fascinating history of the world's oldest profession in the world's finest city. Thoroughly researched, but with a lightness of touch that make it a real page-turner. Throughout the (P)ages what comes across is the inevitability of 'business as usual' vs. the arbitrary (and invariably hypocritical) nature of the treatment of the women involved when government makes occasional attempts to atone for the public libido. A great antidote to the more sanitised versions of history most of us were weaned on, and - to this reader at least - all the historical evidence you will ever need that prohibition is utter folly, wishful thinking and criminal stupidity. On a lighter note, the Earl of Rochester's 'debauched poem' (page 90) made me laugh out loud...
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alternative London 19 Jan 2011
First off, this is not a top shelf book; it is a serious and highly researched work of social history. The story of the social underbelly of London spans 2000 years, from the Romans to Cynthia Payne. What is remarkable is how some things never change - for as long as can be traced London has catered for every vice known to man, which appears to very long list indeed! What amazed me was the level of activity, for want of a better word, that goes on and has gone on, and the fact that social class has nothing to do with who partakes and not always as to who provides. The author does not shirk from describing the desparation, filth and degradation of the (usually) short- lived prostitutes at the bottom end of the market, including the brutality and violence they faced. She also looks at the reasons for earning such a living. On the other hand, there are remarkable stories of women who "made it". For anyone interested in social history this is a fascinating book to read - it deals with an area of life most know nothing about but which is nevertheless very real and likely to always remain.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great transaction! Fast shipping, quality, great experience all round! Buy with confidence! Thanks so much!
Published 8 days ago by MysticKat74
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating
I am very interested in all aspects of the 18th century, this was fascinating - though if you are easily shocked by some very fruity language then it may not be for you!
Published 3 months ago by mountainmini
5.0 out of 5 stars Very gripping read
This was the first book by this lady I had read. I was so pleased with this book I went and got the other two she had written. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Tiggrrrr
1.0 out of 5 stars Daily Mail style stuff
I wanted to find this book interesting, and it is mildly so but there are so many historical inaccuracies it is very hard to believe any of the author's assertions. Read more
Published 5 months ago by JaneyF
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book
An incredibly well written book. A great insight into "the oldest profession in the world" written without bias, naivety or prejudice. Read more
Published 9 months ago by S g w goussetis
3.0 out of 5 stars ta
This is a interesting book full of history but not easy to read. As a second hand book it is quite disapointed as the condition is not as described but the book its self is good.
Published 10 months ago by sam
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely interesting
Terrific book, incredibly well researched and rather eye opening. It really didn't pay to be female in the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries .... literally !
Published 12 months ago by Pandora
4.0 out of 5 stars London Vices
This is a comprehensive account about the mostly sexual vices of London from Roman times to the present day. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Mr T
5.0 out of 5 stars Sex and the City
First things first - this book is about 75% prostitution (mostly female) and 25% pornography. (Sadly the pornography isn't even reproduced in this book with perhaps one or two tame... Read more
Published 17 months ago by SAP
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read
Catherine Arnold delves into the untold of parts of London's history and re tells stories about everyday life. Fascinating read.
Published 18 months ago by Susan
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