James Raven, “Lottery Lives: a comparative social history of gambling and the state lotteries in eighteenth-century France, Britain and Ireland”

James Raven, de l’Université d’Essex, présentera sa communication “Lottery Lives: a comparative social history of gambling and the state lotteries in eighteenth-century France, Britain and Irelandle jeudi 26 novembre de 17h à 19h. Maison de la Recherche, 28 rue Serpente, Paris 6e , salle D421.


This paper derives from the writing of a book that will offer a wide-ranging and comparative European and American history of the English state lotteries that sustained government expenditure for more than 130 years before 1826. These lotteries provoked major social, religious, political, economic and even philosophical debate, but they (and most of their Continental equivalents) have largely disappeared from historical view. This is despite the reprise of British state lotteries from 1992, and the historical comparisons that their organisation, sponsorship and criticism suggest. I shall argue that the English Channel proved an important divide in lottery policy. Continental comparisons demonstrate different priorities in the aims,  policing and maintenance of a state lottery. On mainland Europe, lottery laws were directed at protecting state monopolies (that is outlawing the purchase of foreign lottery tickets in order to protect the financial security of the home lottery). In Britain, however, the sale of foreign lottery tickets was of relatively little concern. Rather, attention was paid to the alleged social destructiveness of gambling in a manner intriguingly different to Continental concerns. I shall offer a survey of European schemes and reactions, concluding that the British lottery, its organisation and the reaction against it, diverged significantly from the experience on mainland Europe (even though many state lotteries ethereal were established on the British model). British exceptionalism therefore raise further questions about the social and political context of the lottery’s operation, and in particular its promotion in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.