Enfilade

Lecture | Adrian Seville on Georgian Board Games

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on April 1, 2019

From the Society of Antiquaries of London:

Adrian Seville, The Shows and Sights of Georgian London: A Board Game Tour of the Metropolis
Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, 7 May 2019

Printed board games—race games, played with dice or a teetotum and offering no choice of move—are a well-recognised feature of Victorian childhood. Yet similar games were also significant in late Georgian England. Of such games printed from 1790 to 1830, over 100 different examples have survived, covering a wide range of cultural themes. The presentation will highlight a group of these games, all with themes relevant to the shows and sights of Georgian London.

A short introduction will trace the history of spiral race games in England, beginning with John Wolfe’s registration of the Game of the Goose at Stationers’ Hall in 1596 up to the publication by John Wallis and Elizabeth Newbery of the New Game of Human Life in 1790, shamelessly copied from the French original, but with variations to suit the English market.

Of the games then to be presented in detail, the earliest is concerned with the first English pantomime, Harlequin and Mother Goose: or, The Golden Egg, first performed in 1806. The others, with dates from 1809 to 1825, each propose a ‘virtual’ sight-seeing tour of London. All these games present finely-detailed hand-coloured engravings of their shows and sights, the choice of subjects indicating the main public attractions of the time. Their rules often hint at how the various attractions were regarded in the affluent society in which these expensive games circulated. And several of the games have booklets giving detailed descriptions and observations, not commonly found elsewhere. Somteimes, as in the games published by the Dartons, a Quaker family, these booklets contain strongly-expressed moral views on such controversial matters as war, colonial exploitation, and wealth: all are the subject of polemics aimed at a junior audience.

This lecture will demonstrate how these simple games, played in the nursery or at the fireside, serve as mirrors of the real world outside, so contributing to the understanding of cultural history in late Georgian England.

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