Society through Whist and Gaming In 18th Century Britain

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2020
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Card games had been an established formed of entertainment in Britain since the 15th century. However, the trick taking card game whist grew in popularity during the 18th century. This caused a societal craze over the new game. The British aristocracy was especially drawn to this game, spending vast amounts of time and money playing the game. Gambling and idleness quickly became associated with whist causing British society to question the worth of this game. This caused a counterculture in British society to oppose what they saw as morally destitute game. The debate about the worth of whist in British society led to uncertainty about the behaviors a person should display in public while playing whist. In order to justify their own actions, male aristocratic whist players responded to the critics by developing an unofficial standard of proper and acceptable roles for whist players. The expected role for a whist player was dependent on their social class and their gender. Male aristocrats sought to portray themselves as enlightened intellectuals while limiting female whist players and portraying commoners as rooks and thieves.
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This paper won the 2020 Burgess Award. It was written for Fall 2019 HIST-K 392.
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