Making Monte Carlo: A History of Speculation and Spectacle

Written by Mark Braude
Review by Helene Williams

When you hear “Monte Carlo,” you probably imagine sandy beaches, sports cars, beautiful people, architecturally impressive casinos, and money. You’d be right, but it hasn’t always been that way: Mark Braude documents the not-so-polished history of this small town in Monaco that changed the economy and politics of an entire continent.

In the mid-19th century, gambling was a gentleman’s sport and was also seen as a sign of aristocratic excess; laws banning gambling throughout France and Germany merely sent the aficionados into backrooms. Enter a pair of scheming brothers, François and Louis Blanc, who connected the concept of the spa resort – taking advantage of a region’s natural attractions – with that of organized gambling – taking advantage of those with time and money. The history of the first casino/spa in Monte Carlo involves deals with the Grimaldi dynasty, revelations of the inner workings of the extended Blanc family, and the beginnings of the public relations industry. Braude connects money, violence, and scandal with the big idea schemes that, by 1930, made Monte Carlo the destination it remains today. Copious notes accompany the text, providing fodder for readers who want to delve further into the history of this region and industry.