Protective Practices: A History of the London Rubber Company and the Condom Business (Hardcover)

Protective Practices: A History of the London Rubber Company and the Condom Business Cover Image
By Jessica Borge, Lesley Hall (Foreword by)
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From humble beginnings wholesaling at a small tobacconist-hairdresser shop in 1915, the London Rubber Company rapidly became the UK's biggest postwar producer and exporter of disposable rubber condoms. A first-mover and innovator, the company's continuous product development and strong brands (including Durex) allowed it to dominate supply to the retail trade and family planning clinics, leading it to intercede in the burgeoning women's market. When oral contraceptives came along, however, the company was caught in a bind between defending condoms against the pill and claiming a segment of the new birth control market for itself. In this first major study on the company, Jessica Borge shows how, despite the "unmentionable" status of condoms that inhibited advertising in the early twentieth century, aggressive business practices were successfully deployed to protect the monopoly and squash competition. Through close, evidence-based examination of LRC's first fifty years, encompassing its most challenging decades, the 1950s and 1960s, as well as an overview of later years including the AIDS crisis, Borge argues that the story of the modern disposable condom in Britain is really the story of the London Rubber Company, the circumstances that befell it, the struggles that beset it, the causes that opposed it, and the opportunities it created for itself. LRC's historic intervention in and contribution to female contraceptive practices sits uneasily with existing narratives centred on women's control of reproduction, but the time has come, Borge argues, for the condom to find its way back to the centre of these debates. Protective Practices thereby re-examines a key transitional moment in social and cultural history through the lens of this unusual case study.

About the Author

Jessica Borge is digital scholarship manager at Archives & Research Collections, King's College London, and a visiting fellow in digital humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

Praise For…

"Borge's meticulous and detailed study of the London Rubber Company provides scholars of reproduction with many such enticing questions, by demonstrating how serious and clear study of one company case study can illuminate much larger debates. The book will interest historians of 20th century Britain, and should be on the reading list of any course that explores the complexities of sex, business and power." Contemporary British History

"Despite the dearth of corporate records, Borge exploits Family Planning Association records, published company annual reports, archival materials, and interviews to document the company story. This study is a valuable contribution as it delineates the changing condom industry and the London Rubber Company's concerted efforts to maintain its market share. Recommended. All readers." Choice

"Borge's study offers an important new economic perspective to histories of contraception and sexual practice. From the suggestive typography on the cover, to the stylish composition of the chapter headings, and the reproduction of twenty-six images and f

"Borge intervenes with a clear corporate and industrial focus. The London Rubber Company's growth from a backstreet wholesaler to a global contraceptive powerhouse is intrinsically engaging. Borge's tight focus creates a valuable look at a powerful compan

"This empirically rich, deftly researched, and intriguing survey of the commercial and cultural aspects of the trade in protectives, through the lens of the London Rubber Company, offers a pathbreaking account of the evolution of male contraceptives in tw

Product Details
ISBN: 9780228003335
ISBN-10: 0228003334
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press
Publication Date: September 23rd, 2020
Pages: 306
Language: English

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