Tuesday, March 04, 2014

1940's board game to teach kids tactics of colonialism

slate | Published in 1941, this “Trading Game: France—Colonies” aimed to teach French children the basics of colonial management.  

Players drew cards corresponding to colony names, then had to deploy cards representing assets like boats, engineers, colonists, schools, and equipment, in order to win cards representing the exports of the various colonies.  “Images on the game,” Getty Research Institute curator Isotta Poggi writes in her blog post on the document, “provide a vivid picture of the vast variety of resources, including animals, plants, and minerals, that the colonies provided to France.” Cartoons on the cards depict coal (mined by a figure clearly intended to be a “native”), rubber, wood, and even wild animals.

Along the way, players needed to avoid pitfalls like sickness, “laziness,” and intemperance (illustrated by a cartoon of a red-cheeked white man in khakis and a white hat, served by a “native” in “traditional” dress). Once the cards representing a colony’s major exports had been won, the colony was considered “exploitée,” and was out of the game.

As the map at the center of the board shows, at the time France’s empire held colonies in Africa, South America, and Asia. The postwar movements for decolonization and independence changed this picture completely. By 1962, when the eight-year-long Algerian War finally led to Algerian independence, many of the colonies marked in red on this map were no longer under French control.
The game is currently on view at the Getty Research Institute, as part of the exhibition “Connecting Seas: A Visual History of Discoveries and Encounters.


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