Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Nice, casinos, France, Third Republic, gambling

Major Advisor

Sylvia Schafer

Associate Advisor

John Davis

Associate Advisor

Joel Blatt

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


In 1894, the proliferation of casino gambling in belle époque Nice led the travel writer Stéphen Liegéard to call Nice “le Babylon de la Méditerranée.” Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Nice was a “dream world” where elite hivernants (winter tourists) came to enjoy a warm climate year-round, thermal spa treatments, and relax by the serene waters of the Mediterranean Sea. From 1815 to 1860, the policies of the Sardinian government privileged local elites. When Nice became part of France in 1860, however, the Imperial, and later the Republican government, turned towards casinos as the primary economic industry and source of revenue. Casinos came to dominate every aspect of politics, culture, and society in Nice. These highly regulated and luxurious gambling houses existed in symbiosis with urban government and urban planning to attract wealthy, elite tourists to the city from all over the world. The leisure industry proved highly adaptable in Nice. It not only survived but thrived during the economic crises of the interwar period (1919 – 1939) thanks to its embrace of the democratization of leisure following World War I. “Le Babylon de la Méditerranée”: Nice and Its Casinos, 1815 – 1939 analyzes how the city’s modern history was completely intertwined with its casinos. Casinos transformed public transportation, law codes, tourism, urban planning, and local politics in Nice. This dissertation tells the story of how a minor port town on the French Riviera in 1815 became the globally recognized symbol of cosmopolitan leisure and pleasure it is today.

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