Dirty Sexy History
By Jessica Cale
Going beyond the sanitized and idealized to the dirty reality of human history with Jessica Cale. There's more to history than what you learned in high school, and we're going to skip to the good stuff together.
Episode 22: Byron’s Fault. An Introduction to Vampires with Violet Fenn
Happy Halloween! This week, we welcome special guest Violet Fenn, author of The History of the Vampire in Popular Culture: Love at First Bite. We cover everything from the earliest myths to the Victorians, and even make it to 1950s Glasgow and a (not so) surprising connection to the Monmouth Vampire in 1980s Wales. Release the bats!
October 27, 2021
Episode 21: Daniel Mendoza and the Modern Art of Boxing
This week on DSH, we look at the life of 18th century prizefighter Daniel Mendoza, who paved the way for acceptance of the Jewish community in Georgian London and changed boxing forever.
October 20, 2021
Episode 20: Death in the Walls. How Arsenic Green Poisoned Victorian Britain
Decor can be ugly, but what about when it’s deadly? Continuing with our Halloween series this week, we’re talking about Scheele’s Green, the arsenic-based pigment that filled homes in Britain throughout the nineteenth century, and its surprising connection to William Morris, one of the most influential figures of the Arts & Crafts Movement. Millions of miles of arsenic green wallpaper filled the homes of Victorian Britain, causing illness and death with toxic dust. You’ll never look at green walls quite the same way again…
October 6, 2021
Episode 19: 40 Elephants, with special guest Sarah MacLean
This week, we look at 40 Elephants, an infamous all-female gang active in London from about 1870 - 1950. Then Jess talks to New York Times Bestselling Author and host of Fated Mates, Sarah MacLean, about the gang and how it helped to inspire her latest Historical Romance, Bombshell. From organized crime and chloroform to Victorian fast food and IUDs, we cover it all today on Dirty Sexy History
September 29, 2021
Episode 18: The Catacombs of Paris
In Episode 3 of our Halloween series, Jess talks about the history of Paris’s catacombs from the dangerous graveyards that led to their opening to the surprising things they are still used for today
September 22, 2021
Episode 17: The Malleus Maleficarum. Witch Hunts in Late Medieval Europe
In the second episode of our Halloween series, we’re picking up where we left off last week with a look at the Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th century German handbook for the identification of witches.
September 15, 2021
Episode 16: Witchcraft, Part One. Women’s Vices
In the first episode of our Halloween series, Jess talks about 11th century ideas of witchcraft in penitential literature and reads some of her favorite “women’s vices” from Burchard’s Decretum
September 9, 2021
Episode 15: Heroin and the Spanish Flu
How did people manage their symptoms during the last pandemic? Heroin! Once and over-the-counter cough aid, it was sold to women, children, and soldiers with chronic pain as a “non-addictive” alternative to morphine. In this episode, John looks at the early history of heroin as well as other common treatments for the Spanish Flu.
September 1, 2021
Episode 14: Porn. Politics and Censorship in 19th Century England
In this overview, Jess traces the development of pornography in Britain from its working-class political origins with Fanny Hill to later Victorian attempts to crack down on its sale
August 25, 2021
Episode 13: Perfect Love and Sacred Sin. The Spiritual Side of Historical Kink
This week, Jess talks about the spiritual side of historical kink with a look at the death of Czech composer Frantisek Kotzwara in 1791 from erotic asphyxiation, and the murder trial that followed. Then, we jump to Imperial Russia for a look at Rasputin’s views on love and sex to answer the eternal question—was Rasputin really Russia’s greatest love machine?
August 18, 2021
Episode 12: Dead Sexy. Tuberculosis and Other Beauty Tips
Following on from Episode 11, we look at how the symptoms of tuberculosis became the gold standard for Victorian beauty, then we jump to Gilded Age New York for some skin care tips from “The Ugly Girl Papers.”
August 11, 2021
Episode 11: Dreams of Love: Franz Liszt and la Dame aux Camelias
La Traviata, Les Miserables, Moulin Rouge… the tragic courtesan of so many stories is based on just one woman: Marie Duplessis, better known as la Dame aux Camelias. This week, we’re looking at her short life, her love affair with composer Franz Liszt, and her enduring legacy in art and music.
August 4, 2021
Episode 10: The Necessary Evil. How Sex Work Built London’s Churches
In this episode, we’re looking at sex work in Southwark from the Roman period until the 12th century, when the Church was in charge of licensing the “Winchester Geese” and used the money to build places like Southwark Cathedral, which sits on the site of an ancient Roman temple to Isis
July 28, 2021
Episode 9: Pumpkin Spice Laudanum
Once as common as aspirin, laudanum was immortalized in 19th century literature and still pops up in period dramas today. So what was it? Opium and alcohol, and it was used for *everything.* Today on DSH, we’re talking about those uses—authorized and otherwise—and looking at Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater
July 21, 2021
Episode 8: The Storming of the Bastille
Happy Bastille Day! This week, we’re talking about the factors that led to the storming of the Bastille on July 14th of 1789 and finding parallels between today’s income inequality and that of Revolutionary France
July 14, 2021
Episode 7: In Love and Dirt: Cross-Class Romance in 19th Century England
In the 19th century, no one ever married outside their class…right? In this episode, we look at some people who did. Elizabeth Armistead was a courtesan to the aristocracy who married the love of her life, politician and abolitionist Charles James Fox. Arthur Munby was a gentleman who secretly married Hannah Cullwick, a maid with a very interesting fetish.
July 7, 2021
Episode 6: The Transgender Priests of Cybele
Trans identities aren’t a new thing; they have existed since at least ancient Mesopotamia around 3100 BCE. In this episode, we take a look at the trans priests of the goddesses Inanna and Cybele, and how an oracle’s prophecy brought them to Rome to defeat Hannibal
June 30, 2021
Episode 5: Chasing Ghosts in 19th Century Paris. Horror Tourism in the City of Light
In this week’s episode, Jess takes you on a tour of the darker side Parisian nightlife in the 19th century from Robertson’s Phantasmagoria to the awesomely goth nightclubs of 1890s Montmartre. As a bonus, she explains how to drink absinthe like a pro so you don’t embarrass yourself in front of Oscar Wilde
June 23, 2021
Episode 4: The Sickness of Naples. Syphilis and the Invention of the Modern Condom
Did Columbus bring syphilis back to Europe from the New World? Almost certainly. In this episode, Jess talks about how Columbus caused the deaths of 120 million people worldwide from disease alone, leading to the invention of the modern condom in the 16th century.
June 16, 2021
Episode 3: The Problematic History of BMI, plus Deadly Diet Drugs of the 1930s
In this double episode, Jess talks about the 19th century origins of BMI and explains how it’s still inherently flawed today. John covers Egyptian and Roman laxatives, then it’s on to the deadly diet pills of the 1930s, namely DNP and Pervitin, the once-legal meth added to chocolate that went on to fuel the Third Reich. Buckle up, minions, it’s going to get weird!
June 9, 2021
Episode 2: Hurts So Good! 19th Century Dominatrix Theresa Berkley
So you think kink is modern? In Regency London, dominatrix Theresa Berkley opened a multistory sex dungeon and became a self-made millionaire. More on Theresa and the English Vice today on DSH
June 2, 2021
Episode 1: Contraception in History, from Pomegranates to Pennyroyal
In this first episode of the podcast, we look at contraception and abortion in history from the ancient world to the twentieth century.
May 26, 2021
April 26, 2021
April 26, 2021