Over a century before Monopoly invited child players to bankrupt one another with merry ruthlessness, a lively and profitable board game industry thrived in Britain from the 1750s onward, thanks to publishers like John Wallis, John Betts, and William Spooner. As part of the new wave of materials catering to the developing mass market of child consumers, the games steadily acquainted future upper- and middle-class empire builders (even the royal family themselves) with the strategies of imperial rule: cultivating, trading, engaging in conflict, displaying, and competing. In their parlors, these players learned the techniques of successful colonial management by playing games such as Spooner’s A Voyage of Discovery, or Betts’ A Tour of the British Colonies and Foreign Possessions. These games shaped ideologies about nation, race, and imperial duty, challenging the portrait of Britons as "absent-minded imperialists." Considered on a continuum with children’s geography primers and adventure tales, these games offer a new way to historicize the Victorians, Britain, and Empire itself. The archival research conducted here illustrates the changing disciplinary landscape of children’s literature/culture studies, as well as nineteenth-century imperial studies, by situating the games at the intersection of material and literary culture.
This series recognizes and supports innovative work on the child and on literature for children and adolescents that informs teaching and engages with current and emerging debates in the field. Proposals are welcome for interdisciplinary and comparative studies by humanities scholars working in a variety of fields, including literature; book history, periodicals history, and print culture and the sociology of texts; theater, film, musicology, and performance studies; history, including the history of education; gender studies; art history and visual culture; cultural studies; and religion.
Topics might include, among other possibilities, how concepts and representations of the child have changed in response to adult concerns; postcolonial and transnational perspectives; "domestic imperialism" and the acculturation of the young within and across class and ethnic lines; the commercialization of childhood and children's bodies; views of young people as consumers and/or originators of culture; the child and religious discourse; children's and adolescents' self-representations; and adults' recollections of childhood.