Stephen M. Stigler - "Casanova's Lottery"

Thursday, October 20, 2022 - 5:30pm - 7:00pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Stephen M. Stigler

Join us in celebrating Casanova's Lottery: The History of a Revolutionary Game of Chance by University of Chicago professor Stephen M. Stigler. Professor Stigler will display several historic items from his personal collection of lottery ephemera.

Presented in partnership with University of Chicago Press

This event will be held in person at The Joseph Regenstein Library, Room 122. At this time, the University currently recommends that individuals wear a mask in indoor settings when others are present.

About the book: The fascinating story of an important lottery that flourished in France from 1757 to 1836 and its role in transforming our understanding of the nature of risk. In the 1750s, at the urging of famed adventurer Giacomo Casanova, the French state began to embrace risk in adopting a new Loterie. The prize amounts paid varied, depending on the number of tickets bought and the amount of the bet, as determined by each individual bettor. The state could lose money on any individual Loterie drawing while being statistically guaranteed to come out on top in the long run. In adopting this framework, the French state took on risk in a way no other has, before or after. At each drawing the state was at risk of losing a large amount; what is more, that risk was precisely calculable, generally well understood, and yet taken on by the state with little more than a mathematical theory to protect it. Stephen M. Stigler follows the Loterie from its curious inception through its hiatus during the French Revolution, its renewal and expansion in 1797, and finally to its suppression in 1836, examining throughout the wider question of how members of the public came to trust in new financial technologies and believe in their value. Drawing from an extensive collection of rare ephemera, Stigler pieces together the Loterie’s remarkable inner workings, as well as its implications for the nature of risk and the role of lotteries in social life over the period 1700–1950. Both a fun read and fodder for many fields, Casanova’s Lottery: The History of a Revolutionary Game of Chance shines new light on the conscious introduction of risk into the management of a nation-state and the rationality of playing unfair games.

About Stephen M. Stigler: Stephen M. Stigler is the Ernest DeWitt Burton Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Statistics and the College at the University of Chicago. 

Event Location: 
The Joseph Regenstein Library
1100 E 57th St
Chicago, IL 60637