Distinguished Speaker Lecture: Gamblers and Gentlefolk: Money, Law and Status in Trollope's England

30 March 2017


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Speaker: Professor Nicola Lacey, London School of Economics

About the lecture

In this lecture, Professor Lacey will examine the wide range of conceptions of money and its legal and social significance in the novels of Anthony Trollope - a writer whose nostalgia for the world of land sits alongside an increasingly sharp critique of the power of money - considering what his novels can tell us about the rapidly changing economic, political and social world of mid Victorian England.  In the first section of the paper, the speaker will set out what she takes to be the main critiques of money which we might expect to find explored in the history of the novel.  Here the speaker notes, drawing on a range of literary examples, that these critiques significantly predate the development of industrial let alone financial capitalism. And noting, conversely, that the capacity of the codes of honour and gentility deriving from the obligations attendant on older forms of social status to underpin the integrity of commerce, which so often form the object of literary anxiety and nostalgia, remain central preoccupations and symbolic resources as we move into the second half of the nineteenth century, albeit in new guises. 

The lecture will then move to Trollope, concentrating in particular on Orley Farm (1861-2) - the novel most directly concerned with law among his formidable output - and The Way We Live Now (1875) - the novel most directly concerned with the use and abuse of money in the early world of financial capitalism.  In these and other novels, the speaker will argue, Trollope’s work epitomises both the multiple meanings which money has and the many functions which money serves in novels, as well as its fundamental ambivalence. The two novels present some interesting contrasts in terms of their conceptions of money and its significance, with money or wealth deriving from social status gradually displaced by social status deriving from money, or from the reputation of wealth - with interesting implications for the legal, moral and other resources which can be drawn upon to temper the power of money in an increasingly urbanised and fluid world. The books not only tell us much about changing conceptions of property in a world in which the old world of landed gentry and the newer one of industrial capitalism sat alongside practices of speculative investment geared simply to the multiplication of money. They also speak, as it were, volumes on the relative effectiveness of the different regulatory resources, including law, which can be brought to bear upon each form of wealth.  And they open some fascinating windows on the gendering of both money and law as concepts in the later Victorian imagination.

About the speaker

Nicola Lacey is School Professor of Law, Gender and Social Policy, attached to the Departments of Law and Social Policy and to the Gender Institute. From 1998 to 2010 she held a Chair in Criminal Law and Legal Theory at LSE; she returned to LSE in 2013 after spending three years as Senior Research Fellow at All Souls College, and Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory at the University of Oxford. She has held a number of visiting appointments, most recently at Harvard Law School. She is an Honorary Fellow of New College Oxford and of University College Oxford; a Fellow of the British Academy; and a member of the Board of Trustees of the British Museum. In 2011 she was awarded the Hans Sigrist Prize by the University of Bern for outstanding scholarship on the function of the rule of law in late modern societies.

CPD Points: 1

Time: Registration from 5.30pm. 6-7pm lecture, followed by cocktail reception

Location: Sydney Law School, New Law Building (F10), Eastern Avenue, Camperdown

Cost: Full Fee $15; SLS Alumni $10; Student $10

Contact: Professional Learning & Community Engagement

Phone: 02 9351 0429

Email: 204a3a560301355c223b703d290601502d443628076d5806