Victorian Vices: Gamblers, Beggars and the Art of getting Something for Nothing

Ref: C2346533

Both gambling on the part of the labouring classes - along with begging - was seen by Victorian reformers as closely linked to the vice of ‘idleness’: of getting 'something for nothing'. It also challenged the virtue of thrift - and the stability of the family by the risk or reality of plunging it into debt. This lecture will look at different kinds of gambling and who was involved - including the aristocracy and gentry, who were notoriously difficult to catch ‘red-handed’. It will analyse objections to gambling, attempts to prohibit or regulate it, and the obstacles they faced. Beggars were also a common sight on the streets of British towns during the Victorian period - so we will consider why people begged, and see some examples of how the law dealt with them. We will also take a look at Henry Mayhew’s ‘gallery’ of disreputable characters in London in the 1860s, and the ruses that some of them used to play on the sympathies of the public.

Course aim

To consider Victorian attitudes to gambling and begging, and efforts to reform or regulate them.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify some common forms of gambling in the Victorian period.
  • Explain why most remained illegal at the end of the 19th century.
  • Give examples from Mayhew's 'gallery' of beggars and the stories they told to elicit public sympathy.
  • Know where to access additional resources for further independent study.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

There is nothing that you need to know or bring to the lecture.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Victorian Vices: Gamblers, Beggars and the Art of getting Something for Nothing


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