Legacies of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century gaming in modern attitudes towards gambling

Abstract

Focusing on England in the period between c. 1600 and 1750, this paper examines from a historical perspective the emergence of several influential ideas about gaming. First, it analyses the development of systematic legislation; this, it is shown, combined elements of player protection and prohibition and was influenced by concerns about large losses, crime and gaming among the poor. The second half of the paper explores what might now be called the "social consequences" of gaming. Many ideas about the ways in which carding and dicing could be harmful to a player and his or her family developed in a seventeenth-century context; these included the perceived (and real) effects of losing time, money and, especially in the case of women, reputation. By the eighteenth century the prevalence of gaming was encouraging commentators to think in new ways about its wider effects on society; England, they feared, was becoming a nation of gamblers. Thus, while historically distant, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century responses to gaming help us to understand the development of modern ideas about gambling.

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