Pasts at play
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The opening chapter of this collection, which explores the relationship between play and historical knowledge through print and material culture, begins by introducing a popular children’s board game: Wallis’s New Game of Universal History and Chronology (1814; 1840). In playing with different pasts and juxtaposing the present on one board, this game offers a practical example of how children routinely encountered multiple pasts and reveals how ephemeral, often overlooked archival material can reveal intersections between children’s culture and history.

This chapter introduces how multiple pasts were often experienced simultaneously in different ways and through different media, by boys and girls across the social classes and throughout the long nineteenth century, for the purpose of amusement and instruction. It demonstrates the congruencies between consumerism, knowledge and interaction, which each of the subsequent chapters address. Here, toy-theatre evidence demonstrates the fruitfulness of multidisciplinary collaboration in exposing the cultural work of the classical and medieval pasts. This theoretical and contextual survey, with original collaborative research, explores nineteenth-century cross-fertilisation between the past and play, play and education, history and consumerism, and its impact on children’s cultures.

Pasts at play

Childhood encounters with history in British culture, 1750–1914


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