The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey

The Disappearance of Lydia Harvey

A GUARDIAN BOOK OF THE WEEK: A true story of sex, crime and the meaning of justice

Julia Laite


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'A gripping, unputdownable masterpiece' Hallie Rubenhold, author of the Baillie Gifford prize-winning The Five

'Ingenious history writing' Mail on Sunday

'Extraordinary' Guardian

'A masterwork' Australian Book Review

'Imaginative and compelling, impassioned and powerful, and deeply, deeply moving' Matt Houlbrook, author of Prince of Tricksters

Lydia Harvey was meant to disappear. She was young and working class; she'd walked the streets, worked in brothels, and had no money of her own. In 1910, politicians, pimps, policemen and moral reformers saw her as just one of many 'girls who disappeared'. But when she took the stand to give testimony at the trial of her traffickers, she ensured she'd never be forgotten.

Historian Julia Laite traces Lydia's extraordinary life from her home in New Zealand to the streets of Buenos Aires and safe houses of London. She also reveals the lives of international traffickers Antonio Carvelli and his mysterious wife Marie, the policemen who tracked them down, the journalists who stoked the scandal, and Eilidh MacDougall, who made it her life's mission to help women who'd been abused and disbelieved.

Together, they tell an immersive story of crime, travel and sexual exploitation, of lives long overlooked and forgotten by history, and of a world transforming into the 20th century.


Julia Laite:
Julia Laite is a senior lecturer in modern history at Birkbeck, University of London. As an expert in the history of prostitution, she has written for the Guardian, Open Democracy and History & Policy , and appeared on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour and Making History, as well as the television programme Find My Past. She tweets @JuliaLaite