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Researching Forced Labour in the Global EconomyMethodological Challenges and Advances$
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Genevieve LeBaron

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266472

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266472.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 02 August 2021

Archival Trouble: Researching Sex Trafficking in Early Twentieth-Century America

Archival Trouble: Researching Sex Trafficking in Early Twentieth-Century America

(p.183) 11 Archival Trouble: Researching Sex Trafficking in Early Twentieth-Century America
Researching Forced Labour in the Global Economy

Jessica R. Pliley

British Academy

This Chapter examines the challenges that historians face when researching illicit labour and the shadow economy – in this case, prostitution and sex trafficking. It argues that generating reliable data about the extent of prostitution and sex trafficking continues to be an insurmountable challenge for historians, just as it was for the historical subjects historians study. It notes that like today’s debates about what practices actually constitute forced labour, the parameters of the term ‘white slavery’ were similarly contested. And it suggests that political forces produced the quantifiable data about white slavery, but the very archives that house the sources historians use are themselves political spaces and function to legitimize state power, reformers’ values, and narratives where the ‘victim’ was rendered silent.

Keywords:   Prostitution, sex work, sex trafficking, white slavery, history, archives

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