Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Educational Game of Vice & Virtue, 1818

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Educational games for children are nothing new. Just like parents today, those in the past were always seeking ways to steer their obstreperous offspring down the proper paths of life, and what better way than to mask the lesson in a game?

This is the playing board for The NEW GAME of VIRTUE REWARDED and VICE PUNISHED, published in London in 1818. The goal of the game was to teach morality to children, with bad qualities like Sloth, Hypocrisy, and Impertinence alternating with desirable behavior, such as Patience, Hope, and Diligence. There appear to be more bad things to be avoided than good ones to emulate (true to life, I suppose), plus some vivid consequences of badness like the Stocks and the House of Correction. The ultimate goal in the center is Virtue – and unlike today, Luxury is considered a negative in 1818.

I'm guessing that the game was played like most classic board games, with players hopping from space to space with the roll of a dice or other counter. Still, thinking of how riotous children's board games can become, I wonder if games like this were as successful in teaching morality as the the makers intended. Certainly Contention, Confusion, and Envy have been a part of every game of Monopoly that I've ever played, with Truth and Patience in very short supply....

Above: The NEW GAME of VIRTUE REWARDED and VICE PUNISHED, published by William Darton, London, 1818. Winterthur Museum.


Unknown said...

I was curious about how this game was played so I did a little research and found out that board games similar to this were quite popular back in the day. This particular game was played with a teetotum, a small spinning top with 4 to 12 sides, six being the average. Each side was marked with a letter or number(dice were associated with gambling). Players advanced around the board and then could be penalized or rewarded depending on which virtue or vice they landed on, i.e. Brutality back to The House of Correction, Carelessness to Prudence, and Piety to Temperance.

I'm wondering if the popularity of such games was due to the novelty of them and the spirit of game play rather than the educational aspect of it. Being a fan of board games, I would love to play this one to find out for myself. :-)

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Thanks for the extra info, Jill - much more than Winterthur has on their site! With these rules, I can see how being sent to the House of Correction would be like landing on Go to Jail, and was likely met with the same howls by the unfortunate player.

Would be interesting (and fun!) to make a study of old games. I suspect that many of the modern board games have their roots in these 18th-19th c examples.

Unknown said...

This is a really fascinating subject - I am writing from Waddesdon Manor, a historic house in Buckinghamshire, England, where we have (amongst many other things)an extraordinary collection of largely French 18th-century board games. In 2012 we did an exhibition of them, exploring - Playing, Learning, Flirting - exploring both their eclectic subject matter (from war-gaming to the arts of love by way of politics and religion) and the way they were used as a social and educational tool to encourage children to learn through play. They are also, of course, visually immensely rich and enticing, as is the example above. The exhibition is still up on our website if anyone would like to take a further look.,-learning,-flirting-french-18th-century-board-games

Pippa Shirley, Head of Collections, Waddesdon Manor

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Wow, Pippa, this is wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing the link - and for keeping the site live for the benefit of everyone who was unable to visit the exhibition.

Drayton Bird said...

There must have been more violent rows around the monopoly board than bears thinking about. I bet somebody has tried to kill someone.

Also, for the umpteenth time I thought what prodigious pleasure your blog gives me. A boon to mankind, as they used to say.

Ana said...

Jill and Pippa, thank you!

I've seen these around the internet (on BibliOdyssey: Board Games ) and have wondered about their rules and history.


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