Harlots, Whores & Hackabouts

A History of Sex for Sale


A provocative and compelling illustrated cultural history of the world’s oldest profession that recovers the stories of those who sold sex for a living


ISBN: 9780500252444 Category:

Kate Lister, Wellcome Collection


The history of selling sex is a hidden one, its practitioners a ‘damnable crew’ pushed to the margins of history. Harlots, Whores & Hackabouts redresses the balance, revealing the history of sex for sale, from medieval back street to Wild West saloon, and from the brothel to state bedroom. This enthralling history is brought to life by Kate Lister’s witty and authoritative text, and illuminated by a rich archive of photographs, artworks and objects.

Structured thematically in broadly chronological order, the book introduces a lively cast of complex and entertaining characters operating in an array of different periods and settings. The Mesopotamian harlot Shamhat was powerful and respected, able to civilize the wild man Enkidu through her charms. In medieval London Elizabeth Moryng serviced clergy under the guise of an embroidery business, though was eventually jailed for being a prolific procuress and bawd. In Renaissance Venice the courtesan Veronica Franco published her poetry, rubbed shoulders with royalty and founded a charity for other courtesans. In the hedonistic floating world of Edo, Japan, kabuki actresses and then geishas entertained and pleasured their patrons. Three men were hanged in 18th-century London for buggery after being found in the Molly House of Margaret Clap. And at the turn of the century, in New Orleans, Lulu White ran Mahogany Hall, a four-storey building that housed up to forty sex workers.

Lister’s illuminating tales invite readers to look, listen and reconsider everything they thought they knew about the world’s oldest profession.

With 450 illustrations in colour

Additional information

Weight 979 g
Dimensions 17.7 x 24.7 cm
Publisher name Thames and Hudson Ltd
Publication date 7 October 2021
Number of pages 256
Format Hardback
Dimensions 17.7 x 24.7 cm
Weight 979 g


There are no reviews yet.

Be the first to review “Harlots, Whores & Hackabouts”

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Kate Lister is the creator of the award-winning online research project 'Whores of Yore', which seeks to build public engagement and disseminate research on the history of sex and sexuality through social media. The Twitter feed has 464,000 followers and the website receives an average of 60,000 independent visits a month. She also lectures at Leeds Trinity University, is widely published on the sex trade and collaborates with several sex-worker charities and campaign groups.