Recommend to your Librarian

Request a Review Copy

Illicit and Unnatural Practices

The Law, Sex and Society in Scotland since 1900

Roger Davidson

eBook (ePub) i
eBook (PDF) i

How did the Scottish legal system respond to what were deemed ‘illicit and unnatural practices’ after 1900?

Using a wide range of prosecution and trial records, along with more recent newspaper coverage of court proceedings, this book furnishes a fascinating insight into the relationship between the law, sex, and society in modern Scotland. Case studies of sex-related offences, including abortion, bestiality, brothel-keeping, child sexual assault, and wilful HIV transmission, reveal how far the legal process both reflected and reinforced contemporary moral panics and how far it was shaped by the interplay between law officers and forensic experts, by the prejudices of the local community and civic leaders, and by Scotland’s distinctive legal and moral identity. The law in practice is seen to have sustained important norms of sexual behaviour and masculinity along with an enduring double moral standard with respect to female sexuality. This volume thus affords a remarkable new perspective on the sexual behaviours and ideologies of Scottish society across the twentieth century and into the new millennium.

Show more


List of Figures
List of Tables
1. Introduction
2. ‘Venereal Trouble’: The Case of ‘Professor’ Abraham Eastburn
3. ‘This Pernicious Delusion’: Law, Medicine and Child Sexual Abuse
4. ‘Unnatural Carnal Connection’: Bestiality and the Law in Early-Twentieth-Century Scotland
5. ‘There’s the Man who Shifts the Babies’: Abortion in the Scottish High Court, 1900−30
6. ‘An Open and Notorious House of Lewdness’: Dora Noyce and the Danube Street Brothel
7. Cure or Confinement?: Law, Medicine and the Treatment of Homosexual Offenders in Scotland, 1950−80
8. ‘Liable or Likely to Deprave and Corrupt the Morals of the Lieges’: Sex Shops and Moral Panic in Late-Twentieth-Century Scotland
9. ‘Culpable and Reckless Conduct’: Criminalising the Transmission of HIV in Scotland, 1983−2014
10. Conclusion
Sources and Select Bibliography

About the Author

Roger Davidson is Emeritus Professor of Social History at the University of Edinburgh. He has published widely on the history of medical and governmental responses to sexual issues. He is the author of Dangerous Liaisons: A Social History of Venereal Disease in Twentieth-Century Scotland (2000) and co-author of The Sexual State: Sexuality and Scottish Governance 1950−80 (2012).


Davidson brings a mastery of the sources, a deep understanding of the particularities of the Scottish legal system, and a firm grasp of the historical shaping of sexual norms and values to the case studies in this book. The result is a superb insight into the complexities and evolution of the legal regulation of ‘unnatural’ sexualities in Scotland.

- Jeffrey Weeks, London South Bank University

You might also like ...