At the turn of the century, a spate of sensational trials kept
French and English readers spellbound and ignited bitter tugs of
war over marriage and divorce laws, women's rights, temperance, gay
prostitution, and lesbian literature.
The chapters in Disorder in the Court each focus on a specific
high-profile trial, and the public debates surrounding it, in order
to address the role of the state in regulating sexual morality. The
authors draw on police archives, records of coroners' inquests,
magistrates' courts, and news coverage to bring to life social
conflicts sparked by differing ideologies of class, gender, and
sexuality. Also explored is the role of the police and 'scientific'
methods of criminology in an era when working class marital
conflicts were resolved by an axe blow, unwanted middle class
spouses were dispatched with an arsenic diet, and government agents
scanned sensational novels or loitered in Paris urinals in search
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