Jackpot: Gambling throughout American History

deadline for submissions: 
July 15, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Dave Schwartz and Jonathan D. Cohen
contact email: 

            We invite proposals for a collection of essays that will bring together different perspectives on the history gambling in the United States. Gambling represents a major economic and cultural phenomenon in modern America. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 70% of Americans engage in some form of wagering, amounting to a handle of over $130 billion per year. Gambling remains a hotly discussed topic as well, as exemplified in debates over the legality of daily fantasy sports, the continued expansion of casinos across the nation, and the frenzy over the record Powerball jackpot in January 2016.

However, scholars have not sufficiently attended to gambling as a historical phenomenon. For decades, studies of gambling have been dominated by social scientists who take an ahistorical approach to games of chance. Despite the fact that gambling has been a major feature of American life for centuries, historians have not yet fully integrated gambling into historiographical debates or broader narratives of the American past.

This collection seeks to fill this gap with a series of chapters detailing the significance of gambling in American history. We are interested in chapters that take gambling as a historically contingent activity embedded in particular economic, political, social, religious, or cultural contexts. Taken together, the essays in this collection will demonstrate the breadth of scholarly perspectives available in examining the history of gambling and its significance in providing a fuller portrait of American life.

Topics of interest include (but are not limited to):

—Pro- and anti-gambling movements

—Intersection of gambling with race, class, and/or gender/sexuality

—Studies of gambling spaces, particularly Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or tribal casinos

—History of treatment for compulsive gamblers, including Gamblers Anonymous

—Gambling advertising

—Governmental (de)regulation of gambling

—Gambling and the history of capitalism

—Artistic and cultural depictions of gambling/gamblers 

Please send a 750-1,000 word chapter abstract as well as a full CV to Jonathan D. Cohen (jdc3yx@virginia.edu) by July 15th, 2016. We anticipate approximately 10 chapters of 10,000 words each. Accepted authors must submit completed essays by January 15th, 2017. Publication with a university press is scheduled for early 2018.