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The London Lock Hospital in the Nineteenth Century

Gender, Sexuality and Social Reform

Maria Isabel Romero Ruiz

Based on archival research, this volume is concerned with the treatment of «fallen women» and prostitutes at the London Lock Hospital and Asylum throughout the nineteenth century. As venereally-diseased women, they were treated in the hospital for their physical ailments; those considered ripe for reform were secluded in the asylum for a moral cure. The author analyses the social and cultural implications arising from the situation of these female inmates at a time when women’s sexuality was widely debated, using a gender-informed and postmodernist approach.
The volume covers notions of purity and deviancy, issues of gender and sexual identity, the social and cultural issues connected with so-called fallen women and prostitutes, and descriptions of venereal disease and treatments for women patients at the time. The Contagious Diseases Acts and their impact are examined, as are the social and cultural implications of the creation of specialised hospitals and places of moral confinement. The book provides a complete picture of the Lock Hospital and Asylum and is an important contribution to the history of hospitals in the Victorian period.
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CHAPTER 1: Introduction: The London Lock Hospital and Asylum and Specialist Hospitals in the Nineteenth Century


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Although several publications have focused partially or as a whole on the London Lock Hospital and Asylum archives, which can be found at the Library, Royal College of Surgeons of England in London, none of them has taken into consideration the role of these two institutions in the rescue and cure of fallen women in the nineteenth century.

David Innes Williams in his 1995 book, The London Lock: A Charitable Hospital, 1746–1952, writes a careful history of the Hospital from its foundation in 1746 to its closure in 1952, analysing different periods in relation to aspects such as the treatment of venereal disease, medical theory and practice, the patients, the staff, the governors, finance, the Chapel and chaplains, the buildings and the situation of the Hospital and Asylum at the different stages of their existence. Williams’ work constitutes a comprehensive volume essential for the scholar who wishes to have a general encompassing approach to the history of the hospital. A narrower aim is achieved in the case of the book published by Kevin Siena in 2004 entitled Venereal Disease, Hospitals and the Urban Poor: London’s Foul Wards 1600–1800, which devotes two chapters to the London Lock. Throughout his work, Siena analyses the role of Royal Hospitals and Poor Law Infirmaries in the cure of venereal disease in the destitute poor as well as the creation of lock hospitals which came to complete the offer of medical institutions for “foul” patients...

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