Yesterday I was able to visit the small exhibition of board games on display at the Weston Library, part of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Since this new extension opened there have been many small exhibitions, including one to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publishing of Alice in Wonderland, and they really are very well done with touch screens offering more information for those who want to go beyond a quick browse of items selected.
The games on display represent Playing with History and had been chosen from a collection donated by Richard Ballam. There were some surprising subjects chosen for a games format including many to do with war. This Trench Football game was quite small and compact.
Other War Games included many playing pieces, cards and boards often mounted on linen. The rules for some were available but did not seem that comprehensive.
Thinking of history we cannot ignore Kings and Queens and several items related to learning about various monarchs and their characteristics. Even this set of building blocks carried not only the head of various monarchs but apparently their dates and key features of their reigns. Clearly even the very young were supposed to know their monarchs.
Several games related to Empire and trade with all corners of the globe.
Another set of cards offered information on various countries of Europe. Dating from 1810 the descriptions are somewhat biased. Where the Italians are praised as an ingenious and polite nation the French, we learn, are of a restless and volatile character. As for Britain, after extoling her virtues, we get to the inevitable subject of the weather. “The climate of Great Britain is very uncertain, but is not subject to the great Extremes of Heat and Cold.” Not sure we can agree with the latter part of that statement today.
Social comment appears in the selection with a game called Sufragetto featuring conflict between the suffragettes and the police and from times, references to slavery in trading games.The display only represents a small part of the collection which is currently being catalogued and is open until March 6th.