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234 × 156 mm
368 pages
119 illustrations, 60 in colour
14 Oct 2019
  • £25.00

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Licentious Worlds Sex and Exploitation in Global Empires Julie Peakman

Licentious Worlds is a history of sexual attitudes and behaviour through five hundred years of empire-building around the world. In a graphic and sometimes unsettling account, Julie Peakman examines colonization and the imperial experience puttting women back in the picture, showing their role in the building of empires, but also how marginalized men and women were almost invariably exploited.

Women acted as negotiators, brothel-keepers, traders and peacekeepers, but they were also oppressed, forced into marriages and raped. The book describes daily life in Turkish harems, Mughal zenanas and Japanese geisha houses, as well as in royal palaces, private households and on board ships. The stories are drawn from many sources – from captains’ logs, missionary reports and cannibals’ memoirs to travellers’ letters, traders’ accounts and reports on prostitution. From debauched clerics and hog-sodomizing Pilgrims to sexually fluid cannibals and homosexual samurai, Licentious Worlds takes history where it has never been before.

‘Julie Peakman’s impressively researched book provides a wide-ranging survey of sexual cultures around the world from the 1500s through the early 1900s. In a work sure to appeal to both scholars and general readers . . . she argues, provocatively and persuasively, that a new type of ‘licentiousness’ promoted by Europeans’ experiences overseas, and the sexual attitudes and practices of indigenous peoples, played a key role in the making of modern sexuality.’ — Robert Aldrich, Professor of European History, University of Sydney

‘Peakman has written what may be the first genuinely global history of licentiousness, an account not only of the fantasies and exploitative sexual adventures of western male colonisers but also of the powerful elite men in the great empires of the modern world from the China and Japan to India and the Ottoman world. It is world history on a new, scholarly, un-ideological and theoretically informed level.’ — Thomas W. Laqueur, Helen Fawcett Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, University of California, Berkeley

‘As erudite as it is entertaining, Julie Peakman’s Licentious Worlds persuasively and meticulously reveals the centrality of gender systems and the control of sexuality across a wide range of empires and times.’ — Philippa Levine, Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas, University of Texas at Austin

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Julie Peakman is a historian, author and broadcaster renowned for her work on the history of sexuality. She is author of many books including The Pleasure’s All Mine: A History of Perverse Sex (Reaktion, 2013), Peg Plunkett: Memoirs of a Whore (2015) and Amatory Pleasures: Explorations in 18th Century Sexual Cultures (2016). She lives in London.