Skip to content

Harris’ Historical Pastime

SKU: 9410

Harris’ Historical Pastime

Date of publication:

  • 1803 but c.1813
  • Printed Measurement:

  • 56 x 54 cm
  • Colour:

  • original
  • Mapmaker:

  • John Harris
  • Historical pastime, or, a new game of the history of England from the Conquest to the accession of George the Third

    This popular early nineteenth-century table-game was evidently much played and much enjoyed. The rule-book has been customised with inked and pencilled variations: being unable to "repeat any circumstance" from the works of Isaac Newton at stop 145 no longer brings a fine, but the outbreak of war with America on the penultimate space now brings the injunction to return to George I. One wonders what family arguments made it necessary to make these changes official. Read more

    Racing clockwise ('No. 1. Battle of Hastings – Pay one to the King ... No. 3. British Baron – Pay one the Norman'), the players pursue their English history through 158 numbered spaces from 1066 to the American War of Independence, terminating in a splendid oval portrait of George III, where history comes up to date.

    Harris has this to say about his game: “This will naturally excite a curiosity in the youthful mind; and that curiosity will be gratified in the short account of each reign sub-joined. – On the whole, the writer flatters himself, that the public approbation will convince him, that the hours he has devoted to the formation of this little Scheme, have not been spent in vain.” Whitehouse was uncertain how often the game was reprinted, and suggests dating it by the rule book. Our example indicates that it was still being sold at least ten years after it was first published.

    Condition & Materials

    The board is an engraved snail-shell racetrack, 56 x 54 cm, original hand colour, dissected into 12 panels and laid on linen, worn and thumbed, with slight fraying to lower edge, folding into slip-case with printed paper label, rubbed and worn; complete with the 48pp "Rules and Directions for Playing the Historical Pastime ... with a Short Account of the Principal Events", here dated 1813; the rule-book much used, creased and frayed, with loss of surface to paper wrappers; a few leaves torn and repaired; one leaf defective, with the loss of a few lines of text.


    Whitehouse, Table Games of Georgian and Victorian days, pp 27-28. Read less