Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9781789141405 Published December 2019 For sale in North and South America only
An e-book edition will be published.

Licentious Worlds

Sex and Exploitation in Global Empires

Julie Peakman

Licentious Worlds

Julie Peakman

Distributed for Reaktion Books

368 pages | 80 color plates, 40 halftones | 6 x 9 1/4
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9781789141405 Published December 2019 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $35.00 ISBN: 9781789141733 Published October 2019

Licentious Worlds is a history of sexual attitudes and behavior 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 of women (as well as marginalized men), showing how women were not only involved in the building of empires, but how they were also almost invariably exploited. Women acted as negotiators, brothel keepers, traders, and peace keepers—but they were also forced into marriages and raped.

The book describes women in Turkish harems, Mughal zenanas, and Japanese geisha houses, as well as in royal palaces and private households and onboard ships. Their stories are drawn from many sources—from captains’ logs, missionary reports, and cannibals’ memoirs to travelers’ letters, traders’ accounts, and reports on prostitutes. From debauched clerics and hog-buggering Pilgrims to sexually-confused cannibals and sodomizing samurai, Licentious Worlds takes history into its darkest corners.

Review Quotes
“Peakman brings a compellingly direct intelligence and clarity to her analysis of the key role of women in negotiations and the maintenance of peace between cultures, and of their unconscionable sexual exploitation by men. . . . The current trivialization of the feminine is, as Peakman shows, a philosophical echo, and one that limits our understanding of equality to economic considerations. As she makes clear in this careful, incisive, and scholarly work, centuries of disregard have created an understanding of the feminine as synonymous with currency, and for one purpose: to maintain masculine supremacy in a world where anyone ‘other than the sexually dominant white heterosexual male tend(s) to be persecuted or made subservient.’”
Robert Aldrich, University of Sydney
“Peakman’s impressively researched book provides a wideranging survey of sexual cultures around the world from the 1500s through the early 1900s. In a work sure to appeal to both scholars and general readers . . . she argues, provocatively and persuasively, that a new type of ‘licentiousness’ promoted by Europeans’ experiences overseas, and the sexual attitudes and practices of indigenous peoples, played a key role in the making of modern sexuality.”
Thomas W. Laqueur, University of California, Berkeley
“Peakman has written what may be the first genuinely global history of licentiousness, an account not only of the fantasies and exploitative sexual adventures of western male colonizers but also of the powerful elite men in the great empires of the modern world from China and Japan to India and the Ottoman world. It is world history on a new, scholarly, unideological, and theoretically informed level.”
Philippa Levine, University of Texas at Austin
“As erudite as it is entertaining, Peakman’s Licentious Worlds persuasively and meticulously reveals the centrality of gender systems and the control of sexuality across a wide range of empires and times.”
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