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Historisches Seminar

The History of Prostitution


Prostitution, when defined as the exchange of sexual services for monetary compensation, is in fact a modern concept, far from the ahistorical and unchanging "world's oldest profession" it has often been labelled as. In fact, prostitution as a phenomenon underwent extensive changes during the early modern period, from broader legal developments such as criminalization and deinstitutionalization to the very words used for the individuals involved. What were these changes, and how do they relate to the central developments of the era, such as the Reformation? How should we picture the lives of prostitutes: what were their travel routes, their family connections, and their economic circumstances? This project explores such questions using the theoretical approaches of historical anthropology and microhistory, as well as the perspectives of gender history and the history of sexuality.

Bildnachweis: Graf, Urs: Dirne, Geld ausschüttend, 1517, Kunstmuseum Basel, Kupferstichkabinett, Amerbach-Kabinett 1662.

Weiterführende Informationen


M.A. Adrina Schulz
Historisches Seminar
Universität Zürich
Karl Schmid-Strasse 4
8006 Zürich