Playing at War in Modern Europe

Puppet of an Englishman ready for assembly, 1914. © Landesmuseum Stuttgart/Museum der Alltagskultur Schloss Waldenbuch, F. Schreiber collection, VK 1978/50-8156

War toys, which have been expanding as an industry since the nineteenth century, are both cultural objects and commercial products. In times of war they contribute to the mobilization of civilians, especially children and the young. For a long time, such toys and games were luxury products. As they became more freely available, they helped shape the imagination and served as a symbolic outlet. In times of peace, they have conveyed a historical discourse whose educational potential remains largely untapped, especially since the emergence of video games. As a medium for interpreting wars of the past they have led to criticism, controversy, and issues relating to memory, and today represent a largely unexplored field of study.