About this project
This project seeks to investigate the lives of children trafficked out of Britain from c. 1885 to c.1940. It focuses on a period in which there were several moral panics about ‘white slavery’ in Britain and its link with child sexual exploitation.
Such concerns drove changes in domestic legislation as well as encouraging the development of international agreements designed to outlaw such practices. But the resurgence in concern about child trafficking and exploitation in the present reveals the failures of those agreements despite over a century of ongoing action by governmental and voluntary bodies, at national and international level.
The historical prism is significant, because this period was one in which Europe, as now, was a) fragmented and inward focused as a climate of economic nationalism prevailed; b) subject to high rates of migration, both before and after the First World War; and c) highly dependent on the charity sector to provide care for children.
Moreover, very little scholarly research has been undertaken on trafficked and exploited children as a separate subject group in the early twentieth century. There are biases to unpick too. The focus on women and girls trafficked for ‘immoral purposes’ by the key players ensured that the energy given to the ‘white slave traffic’ or loss of innocence of adolescent girls deflected from recognition of boys who were trafficked and exploited for other than immoral purposes.
The project will then consider exploitation through several themes, notably race, class, sex and gender, with a focus on the causal factors and the impact of national and international responses.