The Game of Life: Play and Enculturation in the Georgian Home




Wareing-Oksanen, Caitlin

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In Georgian England, gaming was strictly taboo. Yet within the confines of the home, games of chance were more popular than ever, acting as social bridges through which a respectable person might expand their network. Printed pastimes such as board games, puzzles, and cards flooded the market, and while some targeted adults, many more catered to young children. Unprecedented in their subject matter and intended audience, these games were designed to help parents instill in their offspring a sense of morality, reason, and virtue, and prepare children for their adult roles. Many didactic games survive, and their rich visual material offers insight into the implicit values that governed Georgian society and the ways in which they were taught at a very early age. This research focuses on two board games from the Bodleian Library’s John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, and explores the ways in which they model and inform societal phenomena and identities, such as class, gender, and nationalism. It begins by examining the ideologies informing childhood education and motherhood, and then delves into the complex relationship between gender and national identity that was at the forefront of English politics at the turn of the century. Finally, it proposes that these ideas both informed the design of didactic games, and were propagated through their use. In sum, this project seeks to understand how board games operated within the Late Georgian home, particularly as a point of moral instruction and intergenerational connection.



Childhood, play, enculturation, board games, gender, masculinity, eighteenth century, education, home, domesticity, motherhood, childhood, georgian, england