Hello and welcome to this week’s SPOT Newsletter. Today we have two papers on Britain. The first focuses on gambling laws in the early twentieth century whilst the second discusses the proliferation of museums in the nineteenth century. Although these topics do not share much in common they do, in different ways, focus on the issue of class particularly the so-called bourgeois.
The Sports and Leisure History seminar was presented with a talk by Seamus Murphy about the circumventing of gambling and licensing laws by both the rich and the poor in the early-mid twentieth century. Murphy focuses on the awkward legal rules that attempted to outlaw Gaming parties especially those that floated from venue to venue. These games tended to be held by the wealthy and upper classes as opposed to the lower level gambling organised by service men especially during the Second World War. Catching the organisers was difficult particularly because they could claim that they were holding the party as a social event rather than for financial gain. Defence Regulation 42CA which attempted to deal with illegal gambling had various contradictions in its wording and struggled to define what exactly the state meant by illegal gaming. Early in the 1950s objections increased against the legislation’s loose words and in 1952 Defence Regulation 42CA was removed and Police were made to rely upon other regulations to deal with gaming parties. All of this ended in the 1960s when the British Government finally relented and legalised Casinos.
John MacKenzie presents a paper that deals with the proliferation of museums in the nineteenth century from a multi-facetted viewpoint. MacKenzie is particularly focused on the British experience – both at home in Britain and in the colonies. The stress on bourgeois is essential to the argument as it is this ‘class’ who supported, visited and helped to create theses museums. The process of collecting and exhibiting items from around the world lay at the heart of imperialism. For the bourgeois the museum represented a realm of respectability that promoted intellectual society and the public face of scientific study. It also represented economic growth and an improvement of recreation with educational intent. The museum was viewed as a symbol of modernity and a form of globalisation in miniature. MacKenzie ends the paper with a comparison to later colonial attempts to build similar museums as the British that would also house a ‘miniaturised world’. MacKenzie explains that they found it impossible to achieve what the other museums had in the past and were therefore forced to look at alternative niches.