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Gambling in Elizabethan England : perspectives on England’s ‘Lotterie Generall’ of 1567–69

Ball, PS ORCID: 0000-0001-7661-6264 2018 , 'Gambling in Elizabethan England : perspectives on England’s ‘Lotterie Generall’ of 1567–69', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This study concerns Elizabeth I’s attempt to establish a state lottery as a means of ‘voluntary taxation’. The outcome was unhappy. Under one twelfth of the 400,000 tickets sold, with drastic measures required to achieve even so much. The sales period was extended greatly and people coerced into taking part; to avoid making a loss the organisers ultimately found it necessary to diminish every prize to one twelfth its original value. The thesis approaches the lottery from several angles. Its early chapters treat the scheme as a single, big event, contextualising it against the history of English gambling and evolution of European lotteries. Within this broader setting, socio-cultural and political contributors to the failure are explored. Later chapters involve closer scrutiny of specific participants and tickets, informed by methodologies such as quantitative history, microhistory and prosopography. Several factors make this possible. The printed lists of prizewinning tickets have partly survived, preserving details of around four thousand purchases. Participants were expected to devise posies for their tickets: short sayings or rhymes, original or quotation, to be read publicly when each ticket was drawn. This offered those buying under duress an avenue for complaint. Moreover, a high proportion of them were social elites. Not only can such individuals be identified, further details about them can be located. This enables their posies to be interpreted in context, rather than taken literally: sarcasm, equivocation, double meanings, etc. become visible, suggesting political undercurrents not immediately apparent. The late 1560s involved tension, abroad and domestically. The lottery coincided closely with Mary Stewart’s materialisation in England. The thesis contends that an awareness of her presence helps make sense of certain posies, while the tickets may preserve evidence of early reactions to her appearance.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Ball, PS
Keywords: gambling, Elizabethan England, lotteries, emblem studies, posies, unlawful games, Mary Stuart, subversive literature
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Copyright 2018 the author

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