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Carnal Commerce in Counter-Reformation Rome by Tessa (University of Leicester) Storey


Carnal Commerce in Counter-Reformation Rome by Tessa (University of Leicester) Storey

Focusing on the period 1566-1656, this original and lively study sheds light on the daily lives and material culture of ordinary prostitutes and their clients in Rome after the Counter-Reformation. Tessa Storey uses a range of archival sources, including criminal records, letters, courtroom testimonies, images and popular and elite literature, to reveal issues of especial concern to contemporaries. In particular, she explores how and why women became prostitutes, the relationships between prostitutes and clients, and the wealth which potentially could be accumulated. Notarial documents provide a unique perspective on the economics and material culture of prostitution, showing what could be earned and how prostitutes dressed and furnished their homes. The book challenges traditional assumptions about the success of post-Tridentine reforms on Roman prostitution, revealing that despite energetic attempts at social disciplining by the Counter-Reformation Popes, prostitution continued to flourish, and to provide a lucrative living for many women.


Review of the hardback: 'This is an outstanding book. ... Although it focuses on Rome, the work is well-contextualized both in the Italian peninsula and Europe more broadly through a masterful use of other scholars
work. The prose is delightful

- erudite yet never stodgy nor pedantic. The archival base is broad and supported by other types of sources. Storey contributes to the historiography of prostitution and the Reformation in a way that will indubitably exert considerable influence on our understanding of these issues and the future work of other scholars considering these topics.
Renaissance Quarterly Review of the hardback:

'... Storey's fascinating picture of the way Roman prostitutes worked and lived between 1566 and 1656.'
European History Quarterly Review of the hardback:

'Demonstrating how a young woman could earn money for a dowry through prostitution and later be (sequentially) a wife and a nun, Storey depicts the fluidity of female categories. She offers fascinating insight into the ways in which prostitutes, often with the support of their clients, thwarted outside attempts to control their lives ... The narratives in her chapter on 'Becoming a prostitute'
will capture any reader

... the assertion, following Hufton, that understanding prostitution in early modern Rome depends on seeing both continuity and change over time is important, and lies at the heart of this good book.
The Journal of Interdisciplinary History

About the Author

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Book Info

Publication date

16th August 2012


Tessa (University of Leicester) Storey

More books by Tessa (University of Leicester) Storey
Author 'Like for Like'


Cambridge University Press


316 pages


European history
Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700
Social & cultural history
Ethical issues: prostitution & sex industry



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