Acclaimed historian to deliver 2014 Brose lectures

October 21, 2014

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Judith Giesberg, professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of History at Villanova University, will deliver three lectures on “Know(ing) It When You See It:” Pornography and Sexual Culture in the Civil War North, for the 2014 Steven and Janice Brose Distinguished Lecture Series, on Nov. 6, 7 and 8. All lectures are free and open to the public at the Nittany Lion Inn.

This lecture series will explore the trade in pornography that came into its own in the Civil War era and the strong reaction it elicited.

From 1842 to 1873, American lawmakers passed a series of measures intended to protect youth from the ill effects of pornography, initially in response to similar measures being taken in France and Great Britain. But the unique circumstances of the U.S. Civil War determined that Americans would have a different experience with pornography and anti-pornography campaigns than their European counterparts.

With easy and expanding access to photographic technologies, accelerated delivery of the mails and new customs laws that restricted the importation of obscene materials, the U.S. Civil War made possible the triumph of a thriving trade in domestic pornography — and let loose a spirited morality campaign to stamp it out, culminating in the passing of Comstock Laws.

Giesberg is the author of four books on the Civil War, "Emilie Davis's Civil War: The Diaries of a Free Black Woman in Philadelphia, 1863-1865" (The Penn State University Press, 2014), "Keystone State in Crisis:  Pennsylvania in the Civil War" (Pennsylvania Historical Association, 2013), “'Army at Home': Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front" (University of North Carolina Press, 2009) and "Civil War Sisterhood: The United States Sanitary Commission and Women's Politics in Transition" (Northeastern University Press, 2000). 

Giesberg’s lectures are drawn from her project on pornography and the sexual culture of Union military camps during the Civil War.

Sponsored by the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center, the Brose Lectures feature three thematically linked lectures by leading scholars whose work focuses on the era of the American Civil War. The schedule is as follows:

-- 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, Nittany Lion Inn (NLI) Boardroom: “'Lewd, Wicked, Scandalous': American Pornography Comes of Age"

-- 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 7, NLI Assembly Room: “'Storming the Enemy’s Entrenchments': Civil War Courts Martial and the Sexual Culture of the U.S. Army Camp"

-- 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, NLI Boardroom: "'Time to Kill': Anthony Comstock and the Obscenity of War"

The Steven and Janice Brose Distinguished Lecture Series is supported by an endowment established by the Broses in 1998. In 2001, the Broses added to the endowment, their additional contribution allowing a distinguished lecturer to deliver three related lectures over three days. The series generates books published by the University of North Carolina Press.

Past lecturers include distinguished scholars Richard J. M. Blackett, Carol Reardon, Nina Silber, Thomas C. Holt, Gary Gallagher, Mark Noll, Mark Neely, Michael Holt, Drew Faust and Eric Foner.

For more information on the lectures, the speaker or the Richards Center, contact the center at 814-863-0151 or visit the website at


  • Judith Giesberg, 2014 Brose Distinguished Lecture Series speaker

    Judith Giesberg is the 2014 Brose Distinguished Lecture Series speaker.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated July 28, 2017