Prostitution in Prague in the nineteenth and the early twentieth century

Markian Prokopovych

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Prague has been a major centre for prostitution since the late sixteenth century, when Rudolf II moved the royal residence there from Vienna. Traditionally, prostitution establishments were located in the vicinity of the Castle in the Lesser Town. Attempts to control and prohibit prostitution, initiated in Vienna from the late eighteenth century, were made in Prague as well, although less rigidly. In Vienna under Maria Theresa, brothels were forbidden and prostitutes expelled; her successor, Joseph II, legalized them and brought them under medical control in consideration of public safety in view of the spread of venereal disease. In Prague, prostitutes were never expelled, but the trend towards more medical and police regulation can be clearly observed. Between 1792 and 1827 a number of imperial and provincial decrees (such as the Bohemian decree of 14 November 1807) brought prostitutes under medical and police control throughout the entire territory of the Habsburg Empire, with offenders risking prison sentences. The decree of the provincial government of Bohemia of 12 July 1819 brought prostitutes under the direct control of the municipal police. From that point onwards the municipal governments registered prostitutes, issued identity cards for them and carried out medical examinations every other week. From the beginning of the nineteenth century, the majority of Prague's brothels were concentrated in the city centre, the New Town and the Lesser Town, away from the main streets and thoroughfares. The brothel network was quite wide. In 1912, for example, the address book of the Czech Crownland compliled by Alois Chytil, a city guide, recorded 22 addresses in the Old, New and Lesser Town, while police reports speak of a number at least three times larger. There were cheaper brothels as well that catered mostly for the military in the outlying districts. The policy of removing prostitution from the respectable areas in the city centre was not successful in Prague.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTrafficking in Women 1924-1926
Subtitle of host publicationThe Paul McKinsie Reports for the League of Nations
EditorsJean-Michel Chaumont, Magaly Rodriguez Garcia, Paul Servais
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherUnited Nations Publications
ISBN (Print)978-9210601566
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jul 2017

Publication series

NameUnited Nations Series 'History of the United Nations System'

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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