In the exhibition Connecting Seas: A Visual History of Discoveries and Encounters, a whole section features educational tools used to teach children about the colonial lands serving the European motherland. One of the most vivid renditions is this jeu des échanges, or “trading game.”
Made in France at the outbreak of World War II, the game sought to educate children about the colonial world supporting the French economy. With tokens printed in vivid colors to represent places and natural resources in regions colonized by the French, from North Africa to Oceania to southeast Asia, this game encapsulated the mighty business opportunities that lay ahead for adventurous explorers willing to embark for faraway colonial lands.
As described in the rules at the center of the board, the underlying purpose of the game was to admire, through play, the greatness of the French colonial undertaking. The colonization of a land was symbolically achieved first by hoisting the French flag on its soil, then by the establishment of a hospital, a school, and ultimately a harbor. But the ultimate win was to export the rich natural resources of the colonies back to France by boat. Images on the game provide a vivid picture of the vast variety of resources, including animals, plants, and minerals, that the colonies provided to France from all around the globe.
Fascinating post. You say the game comes from the outbreak of World War II, but I note that the year given for publication is 1941, after the fall of France to Nazi Germany in 1940. Was this perhaps published by the Vichy government as propaganda, to encourage “work, family, and fatherland,” or did the design of the game predate the fascist takeover of France?
This game was undoubtedly created in the context of the political propaganda narrative of the Vichy period. However, because of its printing credits, it cannot be directly attributed to the Vichy government. For such game, see instead the “Jeu de l’Empire Francais” at: http://www.giochidelloca.it/scheda.php?id=825 with Vichy imprint (and portrait of Marshal Pétain at square no. 72).
Interesting—thanks for the reply!
What a fascinating entry into an amazing exhibit! Thanks, Ms. Poggi!
Amazing! I was not aware that board games of such complexity existed back in 1941. Although the theme is a bit controversial, I would really like to try to learn and play it. An interesting insight into the French understanding of their own empire.