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34 Reviews
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
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 +)...
Published on 8 Sep 2010 by idntknw

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars great start but
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...
Published on 19 Sep 2011 by cartoon


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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating read, 2 Jan 2013
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Catherine Arnold delves into the untold of parts of London's history and re tells stories about everyday life. Fascinating read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars City of Vice, 26 Feb 2012
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Love the way this book covers all of London's vice history. Great researched material, and well written. Sometimes history books just don't tell a good story! Loved the bit about Oscar Wild!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting - social history and a touch of humour!, 1 Jan 2012
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I really enjoyed this book - it paints such a vivid picture of London throughout the ages and gives a balanced and fascinating look at the history of prostitution and pornography. It was really interesting to see the differences between the different "classes" of prostitute and even read about the (surprising) success stories of those who made their fortune in the oldest profession. Not misery and destitution for all, as might be expected, although there do seem to be a lot of unfortunates along the way.

I particularly liked the way that the author approached the topic with humour, something that stopped the book from ever seeming dull or dry, despite the huge amount of academic research that has clearly gone into its creation.

Overall, I think this is an impressively comprehensive and readable work and I'll be looking into other books by the same author.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of facts but still personal, 21 Jun 2011
By 
S. C. A. Malvik "solveigmalvik" (london, uk) - See all my reviews
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I like how the book is filled with facts yet never gets boring and still manages to reflect the author's personal fascination with the subject.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good insight to bawdy times ., 11 Aug 2014
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A very good read about the sex trade through the ages.
The good bad and the ugly information of life in sex trade.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Trip Through the Demi-Monde, 19 Jan 2011
When I saw that Catharine Arnold had written the final book in her trilogy of irreverent London histories, I couldn't wait. Her previous works, Necropolis: London and its Dead and Bedlam: London and its Mad are exactly what good history writing is all about. Her style is studious in tone without sacrificing an infectious personal enthusiasm, and above all measured, with no obvious religious or political axes to grind. In fact, if Arnold brings anything to her books in terms of bias, it is via the evident pleasure she takes in positing herself as one of a historical host of good London chroniclers - knowledgeable, warm, and unabashed in the face of morbid, poignant and emotive subject matter - whilst effusively dismissive of inflexible moralistic agendas wherever they occur.

This is especially important in terms of her topic here. The sex trade has never gone away, never will, and continues to provoke strong responses in people (responses which, as can be seen from the text, pretty much exactly mirror responses from as long ago as the Medieval period). Arnold manages to balance her discussions of this hefty and extensive history; prostitution at its absolute most dangerous and repellent is discussed in unflinching terms, as is prostitution at its most lucrative - pulling no punches, because for a nineteenth-century woman destroying her health and sanity with 15 hours of close needlework in every 24, prostitution offered a chance at flexible, well-paid work, shorter hours, and all the subsequent benefits in terms of shelter, clothing and nutrition. Many women ended their lives disfigured, being 'sweated' with mercury for the clap and dying in ruins; many other women saved money and bought their own businesses. Arnold strives to represent the stories of these, and many groups of men and women between. As well as a sensible appraisal of the relative plusses and minuses, Arnold is clear (often to the point of gleeful salaciousness) on one Stop Press fact: people enjoy having sex. Not only does this inform her matter-of-fact approach, it means that her descriptions, whilst not designed to titilate, are candid, direct and not for the timid...

There is a lot of ground to be covered here - each chapter in the book could ostensibly form its own volume - so the material is pacy, with the odd major digression to discuss a notable event or a figure like John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. We start with the establishment of London and the arrival of the Roman legions in Britain, with their use of slave girls to populate the lupanaria; the brief lull in London's oldest profession when the Romans depart, and then the ensuing tangle between Church, Government and Monarchy (in so much as they're distinct) during the mid- to late-Medieval period. Then we have the rapid development of the city under the Tudors; the tempestuous 17th Century; the hedonism of the Restoration (cue Rochester and Pepys) and the birth of the modern city during the 18th Century. The delights of 'Convent Garden' (quickly clipped to 'Covent' due to the Cockney pronunciation) and the plethora of sexual activity available gives way to the 19th Century and the encroaching double standards of the Victorian era. Arnold concludes this book with a quick look at the 20th century: the perils of war as a motivator for 'enjoying it while you can'; some modern scandals; then the state of play as it is now, with the final word going to working girls themselves.

Along the way we meet a host of cross-dressers, flagellants, voyeurs, exhibitionists, bon viveurs and inhabitants of London's demi-monde. We also see slaves, the beaten-down, the sick, the persecuted and the destitute. The laws, reforms, campaigns and debates are here, as are examples from the press of the day, diaries, letters and fiction. The tone is brisk, but it never feels like you're being dragged through the history at an incomprehensible pace. It feels eager rather than rushed.

It's a real pleasure to read such an engaging, scrutinising history of London as this. City of Sin comes highly recommended
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating tour of Londons sordid past!, 27 Aug 2010
By 
C. P. F. Flux (UK) - See all my reviews
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I bought this book as someone opposed to the contemporary sex industry on the grounds that it is exploitative, misogynistic and often violent. I wanted to learn about the sex trades history in order to understand its presence in its 21st century form.

This excellent work by Ms Arnold was everything I hoped it would be. The research was down to the finest detail and will intrigue even the lightest of readers. She has a clear ability to tell elaborate stories without becoming boring, offensive or inappropriate. She is witty and paints a strong picture without being too crude. She does well to expose the hypocrisy of the authorities and the cruelty of the pimps, without it descending into feminist diatribe.

I personally couldn't put it down, although it may not hold the interest of someone with only a casual interest in the subject matter through the entire book.

Arnold is both a talented writer and a top historian!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Choice., 14 May 2012
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The book is awesome, I got it second hand and it came brand new within a few days. I should say the text is on the small side which I didn't see in any review or information.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sex and the City, 8 Feb 2013
By 
SAP (Wales) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
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 exceptions.) This isn't made particularly clear by the title, blurb or cover. I thought "vice" would cover the Gin Craze, gambling and crime, like the South Sea Bubble, but the author's interest is exclusively prurient. I'm not a prude, I'm not even complaining - this is a top book - but it is miss-sold a little perhaps. Also there is an irritating/amusing typo ON THE COVER of all places - "a twelfth-century century [sic] monk"... Oops! Would have liked more pictures, and maybe even maps, but I loved it anyway. I have read her Bedlam so I kinda knew I was in for a good time or had scored (pardon puns) when I picked up this book. Hope she writes more.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars entertaining and colourful journey through centuries of sex and debauchery in London, 15 Mar 2012
Arnold examines 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 outlandish sexual behaviour.

From sexual exuberance to moral panic, the city has seen the pendulum swing from Puritanism to hedonism and back again.

With chapters also looking at 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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