Games of Chance Economics, and Ethics in the 13th and 14th Centuries
Il gioco d'azzardo fra economia ed etica. Secoli XIII -XV
A major scholar of the history of gambling, Ortalli brings to
light - in this innovative study - a largely unfamiliar tale: the spread of
games of chance and their gradual institutionalisation during the Middle Ages.
Although they were considered illegitimate, in the social and economic reawakening
of that era games based on dice-throwing were tolerated in specific contexts
and exploited, in particular, by rulers as a source of revenue (via taxes and
subcontracts). This led to the emergence of a group of social outcasts, which
are the object of this study: professional gamblers, willing to wager usque
ad camisiam et serrabulas, i.e., even their shirts and underpants. Ortalli pieces
together this world that lay at the fringe of legality, tracing its development
to the 14th century, when gambling assumed different forms: card games and lotteries.
Gherardo Ortalli, an expert on the history of games of chance, teaches Medieval History at the University of Venice.
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