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 putting 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.


Dr. Julie Peakman is a historian in eighteenth-century culture and an expert in the history of sexuality, erotica and pornography. She is Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and Honorary Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London. She is a frequent contributor to journals, magazines and television documentaries for BBC, Channel 4 and the Biography Channel. Her books include Licentious Worlds. Sex & Exploitation in Global Empires; Amatory Pleasures, Exploration in Eighteenth-Century Sexual Culture (2016); The Pleasure’s All Mine. A History of Perverse Sex (2013); Lascivious Bodies: A Sexual History of the Eighteenth Century (2004) and Mighty Lewd Books: The Development of Pornography in Eighteenth-Century England (2003). She has also edited 6 Volumes of A Cultural History of Sexuality (2011); Sexual Perversions 1670-1890 (2009); and 8 Volumes of Whores Biographies, 1700-1825 (2006-7). She is also biographer of Peg Plunkett, Memoirs of a Whore (2014) and Emma Hamilton (2005)