Topic description and bio note

Topic description

Courtesanship was a diverse practice. The activity was flexible and open to women from all strata of society. It could be covert or overt, occasional or regular, elite or low-class, domiciliary or outdoor, local or foreign. It could be pursued out of necessity or volition. Poverty and coercion are often cited as the main causes of female prostitution but entry could also be uncompelled and deliberate. The talk will focus on prostitution in Valletta, the nexus of life on the island in Hospitaller times, a city that not unlike Rome was ‘very much a male city’. The protagonists are early modern females who freely and publicly chose to offer non-marital services for private benefits. This presentation will reveal the identity of some courtesans and public women and explore where they came from, where they lived, their lives, their struggles, their hopes and their entrepreneurial pursuits. 


Biographical Note – Dr. Christine Muscat

Christine Muscat holds a PhD in History from the University of Malta. She is a lecturer on women in the baroque age at the International Institute for Baroque Studies, University of Malta.  She teaches history at the Institute for Tourism Studies and is also a licensed professional tourist guide. She is the author of Public Women: Prostitute Entrepreneurs in Valletta 1630-1798, (BDL: 2018) and Magdalene Nuns and Penitent Prostitutes, (BDL: 2013). She published a number of articles on women in early modern Malta in peer-reviewed journals and magazines. Her research interests include women, work, property and gender in early modern Malta and Europe.

Sustainability and the number of practitioners ultimately depended on demand and This talk will focus on Some may seem bizarre. The ambition to drink and eat sweets after midnight, or to own gold earrings, gold buttons, a silver belt buckle, a woollen burgundy-coloured jacket,[1] or the dream to ‘shine in sumptuous dresses’,[2] or to kill monotony[3] are a few motivations that may seem odd.  were fully self-sufficient. Not unlike Rome, Valletta was ‘very much a male city’. The presence of salaried soldiers, sailors, corsairs, knights, visiting merchants and foreigners fluctuated.

[1] N.A.M. Processi. Box 378, ff.15-22v. (16 January 1737), Bundle De Uxorcidio Michel’Angelo Sammut.

[2] Alexandre-Jean-Baptiste Parent-Duchâtelet, De la prostitution dans la ville de Paris, (Paris, J.B. Baillière, 1835), 100.

[3] Willian Sanger, The History of Prostitution, (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1858), 488.

Last modified: Thursday, 10 December 2020, 11:41 AM