A 1940s Board Game for French Kids Taught Tactics for Successful Colonialism

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Feb. 28 2014 1:45 PM

A 1940s Board Game for French Kids Taught Tactics for Successful Colonialism

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

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.

Advertisement

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.” Click on the images below to reach zoomable versions.

FinalColonizationGame
"Trading Game: France—Colonies" (arrayed horizontally, with tokens at right), 1941, O.P.I.M. (Office de publicite et d’impression), Breveté S.G.D.G. Lithograph on linen, 22 7/8 x 32 1/4 in. The Getty Research Institute, 970031.6.

Getty Research Institute.

FinalTokens1
"Trading Game: France—Colonies" (view of tokens only), 1941, O.P.I.M. (Office de publicite et d’impression), Breveté S.G.D.G. Lithograph on linen, 22 7/8 x 32 1/4 in. The Getty Research Institute, 970031.6.

Getty Research Institute.

Correction, March 1, 2014: An original version of this post misspelled Isotta Poggi's name. The post also reported that every French colony was independent by 1962. Djibouti became independent in 1977, and other former colonies, including French Guyana, Guadeloupe, and Martinique, remain overseas departments of France. 

TODAY IN SLATE

The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

This Scene From All The President’s Men Captures Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.
Technocracy

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.