London’s Sinful Secret: The Bawdy History and Very Public Passions of London’s Georgian Age

Written by Dan Cruickshank
Review by Heather Domin

Architectural historian Dan Cruickshank’s newest book is a lengthy but fascinating examination of a not-so-secret aspect of Georgian London: the sex industry. From throngs of streetwalkers and scores of bordellos and bath houses to the open availability of just about any flavor of sexual dalliance and deviance, the author uses massive amounts of information to detail the lives of people on both sides of the transaction.

Exhaustively researched and annotated, wide in breadth and scope, the book uses the study of sex work as a microcosm of Georgian culture in London before the advent of Victorianism: its social mores, legal practices, religious views, art and literature, medical advancements, development of social programs, economic and population growth, and the rights of women, homosexuals, and other oppressed groups. (And yes, even architecture!) The book is written in a tidy and straightforward academic style despite its juicy subject matter, yet it remains accessible and not without moments of comedy and tragedy. Plenty of historical tidbits, primary source quotes, and illustrations keep the reader curiously turning the pages. Recommended for anyone interested in social and cultural history, the Georgian era, or gender and sexuality studies.