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In this talk I will explore popular images emerging in erotica: female flagellants whipping their submissive charges; depraved monks corrupting innocent nuns; libertine rascals seducing young virgins; and rakes carousing with their whores, all of it was becoming increasingly available in Britain in the eighteenth century.

The famous diarist Samuel Pepys secretly admitted to reading pornography. He had got hold of the French original of L’Escole des Filles (translated in English as School of Venus) which had become available in London in 1668. He thought it ‘a mighty lewd book, but yet not amiss for a sober man once to read over to inform himself in the villainy of the world.’ Overcome by guilt, he burnt it. But this feeling of sin among British men was to lessen in line with the rise of the pornography trade.

This talk will explore the erotic book trade in Britain and the types of sexual fantasies being catered for. From salacious prints, erotic poems, obscene satires and graphic sexual novellas, an abundance of pornography was available. It could be found in London coffee-shops, in taverns and on streets corners along the Strand and Covent Garden, while books sellers stood a figure of a naked man outside their shop doors to advertise to clients what sort of book they sold. meanwhile, publishers would come under increasing persecution from the law.

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 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 (2019); 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). She is currently writing a book on sexual shenanigans in the metropolis, Intimate London, a story of whoring, sodomising, adultery and seduction.