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Games for Research: The historical perspective

The John Johnson Collection contains many games and has recently been considerably enriched by the donation by Richard Ballam of his collection of games and pastimes. This guide explores the relevance of games to academic research.

Kings and Queens

This dissected puzzle enabled children to enjoy learning the chronology of British Kings and Queens

An unbiased view?

Games which aim to teach history are fascinating, as it is impossible to take an unbiased view either of the past or the present. The distillation of history into game cards or squares necessitates choices.  If these choices mean that the child's view of history was shaped by the game producer, such games also offer us insights into the view adults took of their past and their present.  If we take Henry VIII as an an example, he is typically cast as "Cruel." but which event should be selected to exemplify this epithet? More than  one game from the Ballam Collection singles out the death of Cardinal Wolsey.  While some cards relating to Charles II refer to the Plague and the Fire of London, one publisher prioritises "Tea first used in England. St James' Park planted."

The iconography of game cards or the squares on a games board are important in establishing the persona of the monarch (or Pretender) in the juvenile imagination.

Subject Guide

Julie Anne Lambert's picture
Julie Anne Lambert
John Johnson Collection
Bodleian Libraries
Broad Street
+44 (0)1865 277047

Henry VIII

Various interpretations of the character and achievements of Henry VIII from the Ballam Collection