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The Secret History of Georgian London: How the Wages of Sin Shaped the Capital

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  178 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
A world of riches and glamour, but also tragedy, abuse and disease, this book looks at how this influenced building and the arts in London.
Hardcover, 688 pages
Published September 3rd 2009 by Random House Books
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Dec 09, 2015 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, london, 2015
This started off strong, but started to drag around the 30% mark. I'm not sure Cruickshank understands editing- we don't need every single detail to comprehend his point. His prose is also not the most engaging. I would only recommend this for the truly interested folks
Rajiv Chopra
Oct 01, 2013 Rajiv Chopra rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-history
This book is an excellent read. It is meticulously researched, and very well presented. There is a wealth of information, and many, many names. What I like, is that when a name crops up at a page, he refers you back you an earlier page, so you can go back and refresh your memory. An excellent tool indeed.

The book is timely, in that it does great service to the women who have often been abused by people of power. Some of these women rose to power, and then died in misery. The tale of Ann Bell is
Nicki Markus
Dec 23, 2015 Nicki Markus rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-non-fiction
I loved The Secret History of Georgian London from start to finish. It was both educational and entertaining. I enjoyed Cruickshank's prose, which was readable and engaging, and the topic was an interesting one. The Georgian period has long fascinated me and this was another wonderful book to add to my collection of non-fiction on the era. The chapter on Molly Houses was particularly illuminating since I am current writing a novel set in the later Regency period in which one of the characters is ...more
Brigid Keely
"London's Sinful Secret: The Bawdy History and Very Public Passions of London's Georgian Age," by Dan Cruickshank, is an entertainingly written and in depth look at the very large role prostitution played in the economic and social life of Georgian London.

This is a big book, a brick of a book, a door stopper of a book. It took me quite a while to get through because there's a lot of information and a lot of stories and a lot of people involved. It's well written, though, and entertaining, and ed
Jan 24, 2011 Karen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent non-fiction about the sex industry in London during the 1700's. Author Dan Cruickshank (architectural historian and television presenter of Around the World in 80 Treasures) has gone to great lengths (600 pages worth) to tell us just what an industry that was too. Of all the females in London, 1 out of 5 was involved in this lucrative trade. I know everyone has read stories of all the children on the streets...orphans really...they were a result of unwanted children from this industry. ...more
A rather lengthy but easily read tome on London's during the Georgian Age. The author states the 'service industry par excellence' (i.e. the sex industry) in 1792 has a gross turnover of 20 million pounds. During that same year the London docks handled imports and exports of 27 million pounds. Prostitution was one of the prime money 'generators' of the period. Much of the building during that time frame was financed by prostitution, either as places for mistresses or brothels.
The author discuss
Aug 08, 2016 Deirdre rated it really liked it
Fairly detailed but this should also be compulsory reading for Regency Historical writers. You can see how companions and guards would be necessary when there were so many people who were involved in the sex industry one street over. This is a book about how basically Prostitution was one of the major earners in London during the Georgian period. That this was how a lot of people made their living, how then as now, the women were often blamed rather than the clients and how some people prospered ...more
Jun 15, 2013 Jean rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, england, lpl
I found this book to be very enlightening yet drawn out in the same token. The first part of the study examines the business and recruitment practices of the industry. He also cites famous individuals and recounts their stories. It really enraged me to read about the practices that entrapped women into this industry as well as the lure of it due to the overwhelming lack of opportunities for a female in the strongly patriarchal society. In the middle, it meanders a bit and seemed redundant. He to ...more
Laura Hutchinson
Oct 12, 2014 Laura Hutchinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Georgian history and the history of London
Recommended to Laura by: A colleague
A fun and readable history book - Dan Cruickshank has a real eye for the human details which really bring to life the people who worked in the sex trade in eighteenth century London. His understanding of the city's economy I found really interesting - the sex trade was bringing in huge amounts of money and keeping some women in serious wealth and style. There are some fabulous characters within, not least my favourite Kitty Fisher - painted by Reynolds as Cleopatra, who once ate the notes given ...more
This book is a good source of information about prostitution in London during the Georgian age.

It's quite sad to read about all the young women, men and children who were forced into this life to survive, used up in a couple of years and then thrown away. The descriptions of rampant disease and the pathetic stories of early deaths is wrenching.

There's also the maddening story of the execution of several gay men who were framed by a turncoat "friend" to save his own neck.

It's a serious read and
Martine Bailey
Jan 13, 2014 Martine Bailey rated it really liked it
A fascinating book that successfully links London’s architecture with the Georgian sex industry. As such, it takes the reader inside a lost world of bagnio bath houses (apparently tiled with blue Delft tiles), large mansions rigged out as brothels and lots of other nooks and crannies. Occasionally I felt the need for more on buildings (I want details of furnishings, not generalities) and less on the rather well-trodden biographies of famous Georgian characters. But although it is a huge book I r ...more
Krista D.
Mar 25, 2012 Krista D. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Too often our Jane Austen adaptations (while lovely) have given us the impression that Georgian Britain was a charming place, filled with balls and galas and men who cared deeply about women.

Cruikshank crushes that misconception to dust.

Exhaustive research, extensive primary source material, thoughtful, illuminating. I wish this book was out when I was writing my thesis because it would have become my historical bible on prostitution.
May 16, 2013 Dizzymay rated it liked it
This is a good book - not brilliant, but good. The author's writing style is very readable and accessible to a range of people from academics to the general public. His argument was interesting, but I thought that he lost sight of what exactly he was arguing at different points. However, what really makes the book is the author's inspection of some of the women involved in prostitution in Georgian London. The portraits the author paints are as fascinating as they are revealing.

Lauren Albert
I didn't do this book a service by taking so long to read it since I lost track. But I do think it was a bit scattered with no overarching argument or point of view. If you are interested in the history of London or of histories of the underworld, you'd probably find something of interest in it. It is a sometimes microscopic look at prostitution in Georgian London.
Jason Walker
Sep 16, 2011 Jason Walker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are serious things to consider in reading how the disadvantaged are abused; how society has always really been the veil of our own deceit. However, the author in this case also gives us a good read. Well executed research and well put-together accounts of the era and its characters this is a page turner you won't want to stop reading.
Elizabeth Moffat
Jan 26, 2012 Elizabeth Moffat rated it it was ok
I did quite like this book about prostitution in Georgian London, but because I have read a book quite similar to this recently (London - The Wicked City), I found it repeated much of what was said in that book. I would still recommend it to anyone interested in the dark and "naughty" times of London though!
Nov 18, 2012 Kgwhitehurst marked it as to-read
I'm a hundred pages into this tome. It didn't need to be a tome. If the author had cut out the editorializing (aka authorial intrusion) and let the history do the talking, the book would be much better. Bibliography, mostly of printed sources, is to die for.
Mar 21, 2012 Leslie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Cruickshank's work is an odd hybrid - far too entertaining to be a scholarly work and too large in scope (and in places, dry) to be a popular work. nevertheless, London's Sinful Secret is well researched and written.
Jul 24, 2016 Tina rated it it was ok
It was very informative, but I found it super dry (and this coming form a person whose favorite genre is historical biographies). I had to really push myself to try and finish it, and if we're being completely honest, I skimmed A LOT of the chapters.
Jan 03, 2013 Maldemal rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good. Less interested in being sensational than in being informative. Lots of empathy and sense of humour. Charmingly, the author's interest in architecture clearly surpasses any interest in the sexy bits.
Oct 07, 2014 Nick rated it really liked it
This was a must-read for me as it covers my favourite subjects and Cruickshank really does them justice! It captures the dark side of the city , and appalling plight and misuse of women against the architectural backdrop of lavish self indulgence.
Aug 10, 2014 Iris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating history of the Georgian age in London. A variety of material is explored from architecture artifacts and art to statistics, finance and personal accounts of life.
Louise Chambers
Apr 11, 2011 Louise Chambers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Takes forever to read-lots of detail and stories and local color. He's got everything in here, so the reader gets a true feel for the times and the people who inhabit them.
Vikram Shiva
Vikram Shiva rated it really liked it
Sep 25, 2011
Ana Sampson
Ana Sampson rated it liked it
Apr 10, 2012
Jp Nery
Jp Nery rated it it was amazing
Nov 21, 2011
Molly Neely
Molly Neely rated it it was amazing
Aug 26, 2015
Heather Davidson
Heather Davidson rated it really liked it
Jul 11, 2016
Rose rated it really liked it
Nov 03, 2011
Amanda rated it liked it
Jul 21, 2011
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Cruickshank holds a BA in Art, Design and Architecture and was formerly a Visiting Professor in the Department of Architecture at the University of Sheffield and a member of the London faculty of the University of Delaware. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, a member of the Executive Committee of the Georgian Group and on the Architectural Panel of the National ...more
More about Dan Cruickshank...

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