Calculation and Conjuring: John Molesworth and the Lottery in late eighteenth-century Britain

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Throughout the 1770s John Molesworth repeatedly, spectacularly and notoriously offered for sale tickets in the British state lotteries that he claimed were more likely than others to win prizes. In this article I tell his story and explore how he defended his claim against attacks that it was ‘absurd’ and an ‘imposition’, and how he persuaded adventurers in the lottery to purchase his tickets. He drew on a wide range of knowledge-making and trust-promoting techniques from natural philosophical, corporate and legal contexts, but at the heart of the strategy was his own status as a gentleman.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-155
Number of pages21
JournalJournal for Eighteenth-Century Studies
Issue number2
Early online date29 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2018 British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • Advertising
  • John Molesworth
  • London
  • Lottery
  • Print culture
  • Probability

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