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A BRIEF HISTORY OF GAMES AND LEISURE By Tim Lambert

Egyptian Games
For entertainment the Egyptians loved parties. If a rich person invited you to a feast, singers, musicians, dancers, jugglers, wrestlers and jesters would entertain you. Musicians played wooden flutes, harps, lutes, drums and clappers. At a rich person's banquet guests were given a cone of perfumed fat to put on their heads. It slowly melted leaving the wearer smelling nice. Egyptians also loved hunting and fishing. (For the rich hunting was for pleasure. For the poor it was for food). Men caught birds with nets or by throwing curved sticks. Fish were caught with hooks or harpoons. Men and women went swimming. Men also enjoyed boxing, wrestling and archery. They also played a game which involved standing on a boat and trying to knock the opposing team into the water with a stick. Egyptians also played a board game called Senet. The board was divided into squares with counters. You threw sticks rather than a dice. Egyptian children played similar games to the ones children play today. They also played with dolls, toy soldiers, wooden animals, ball, marbles, spinning tops and knucklebones (which were thrown like dice).

To read more about life in Ancient Egypt click here. Greek Games The Olympic Games
Athletic competitions were held during religious festivals in every Greek city. However the Olympic Games began in Olympia in 776 BC in honour of Zeus, the chief god and people came from all over Greece and the Greek colonies to take part in them. Wars stopped to allow everyone to take part. Athletes competed in boxing, wrestling, running, horseracing, chariot racing and the pentathlon (five athletic events). Winners were not given medals. Instead they were given a crown of leaves. Women were not allowed to take part in the games. They were not even allowed to watch. (If they were caught watching they were executed by being thrown off a cliff).

Greek Theatre
The Greeks are famous for drama. Theatre probably began with a group of people called a chorus singing and dancing in honour of Dionysus, god of wine. Then about 534 BC a man named Thespis added a single actor to the chorus. A second actor was added then a third. Eventually the three actors stood on a stage while the chorus stood in the foreground and commented on the action.

They also wrote comedies. Komoidia). However being a charioteer was dangerous and often ended in early death. blues. Lords hunted deer with packs of dogs and killed them with arrows. Games for the poor must have been cheap like wrestling. Roman children played games with wooden or clay dolls and hoops. They had to organise the servants and generally run the household. To clean themselves Romans rubbed their skin with oil and scraped it off with a tool called a strigil. (Our word theatre is derived from the Greek word theatron. In the evenings they feasted and drank.All actors were male and they wore masks. . In Rome there was a great amphitheatre called the Coliseum. In the evenings they feasted.000 people. They also played with toy carts and with animal knucklebones. They also hunted wild boar with spears. greens. riddles and games like chess. There were four teams. You usually finished with a dip in a cold pool. The Greeks invented tragedy in which some great person is destroyed not by wickedness but through error. Rich Saxons kept falcons. Larger towns also had an amphitheatre where 'sports' such as cock fighting were held and sometimes gladiators fought to the death. which means the place where people listen). In the Middle Ages the main pastime of the upper class was hunting. The Romans gambled with dice. reds and whites. When he was not hunting the noble or night was fighting. Their wives were also kept busy. They also played board games. It was built in 80 AD and could hold as many as 55. Games in the Middle Ages Life in Anglo-Saxon times was hard and rough. Roman Games In the towns another important building was the public baths. After feasts minstrels or gleemen entertained the lord and his men by playing the harp and singing. danced and played board games such as chess and backgammon. running races and playing dice. In the mid-15th century playing cards arrived in England. In Roman times people went to the baths not just to get clean but also to socialise. In the evenings apart from feasting they enjoyed storytelling. They also played ball games and board games. Some Roman towns also had theatres. However life was good for rich Saxons. To read more about life in Ancient Greece click here. a Tepidarium or warm room and a caldarium or hot room. Both men and women went hawking. The audience sat in tiers of seats in a semicircle. (Our word comedy comes from the Greek word for merrymaking. Roman Baths consisted of a frigidarium of cold room. Their supporters who often gambled on the outcomes of races treated the charioteers as heroes. The people of Rome were also very fond of chariot racing. A sun shade or velarium could be unfurled over the heads of the spectators. During the day the main pastime of the rich was hunting.

After it was killed the deer was eaten. It was probably invented in India in the 6th or 7th century AD or possibly earlier. The printing press made books much cheaper so reading was a popular pastime for the wealthy. The contestants dressed in armour and rode horses. In the Middle Ages wealthy people also played board games. People also played with knucklebones. The Arabs played a similar game and by the 11th century a form of draughts was being played in Europe. The Tudors also played draughts and fox and geese. which might include woods and streams! There were no rules so broken limbs and other injuries were common. There were no rules and the 'pitch' was often a large area including woods and even streams! It was a very rough game. Meanwhile the first recorded bowling green was laid out in Southampton in the 13th century. However in Tudor times rich people did not hunt foxes. Music and dancing were also very popular. Poor people gambled with dice. The men from 2 villages played on a 'pitch'. People also enjoyed cruel 'sports' like cockfighting and bear baiting.Knights also took part in tournaments. The rich also played board games like chess and backgammon (a backgammon set was found on the wreck of the Mary Rose. Ordinary people played a rough version of football. These events drew large crowds of spectators. In the most common version of this game you balanced knucklebones on the back of your hand . We are not certain where or when chess was invented. one was for tourneys and one was for archery competitions. The Tudors also liked wrestling and 'casting the bar'. Injuries like broken limbs were common. During them poor people danced and wrestled. There were also tourneys (fights between teams). Games similar to draughts were played by the ancient Egyptians. (A bear was chained to a post and dogs were trained to attack it). which was like shot-putting but with an iron bar. At any rate by the 11th century it was being played in parts of Europe. People were allowed to rest on Holy days (from which we get our word holiday). Furthermore in the Middle Ages people made skates from cow's shoulder blades and went ice skating. Even for Medieval peasants life was not all hard work. It is the same as a modern one). The Dutch played games with clubs in the Middle Ages but golf developed in Scotland in the 15th century. They also played bowls and skittles. They also played a very rough form of football. which meant club. They also played games like shuffleboard (shove ha'penny) and nine men's morris. The rich also enjoyed hunting. swords or maces. Tournaments often lasted four days. Playing cards were also popular. This was called jousting. They went hunting deer with bows and arrows. Tudor Games Although the days of armoured knights were over the rich still enjoyed tournaments. Gambling was also common. Falcons were trained to kill other birds. They also played billiards (but not snooker. At them knights fought with wooden lances. They fought with wooden lances and swords. They also tennis with a leather ball stuffed with hair. Golf is believed to be a corruption of a Dutch word 'kolve'. Two days were for jousting. All classes gambled. The rich also went hawking. Greeks and Romans. which is a 19th century game).

So was tennis and a rough version of football. The wealthy also played a game called pale-maille (Pall Mall in London gets its name from an area where the game was played). Dominoes were also played. Assembly rooms were also built in most towns. draughts. The Derby began in 1780. Furthermore cruel 'sports' like cockfighting and bear baiting were still popular. The theatre remained popular in the 17th century. In them people played cards and attended balls. However in 1576 a man named James Burbage built the first theatre. They were called groundlings. In the late 17th century it took on its modern form. Another popular entertainment was watching public executions! Criminals were hanged in public and large crowds turned out to watch. 17th Century Games In the 17th century traditional pastimes such as cards and bowls continued. People also played board games like chess. backgammon and fox and goose. However the poor customers stood in the open air. In the early 18th century most towns did not have a purpose built theatre and plays were staged in buildings like inns. 18th Century Games Traditional games remained popular in the 18th Century. For the well off card games and gambling were popular. From 1572 actors had to hold a licence. However the Puritans disapproved of the theatre and in 1642 they banned it completely. However after 1660 actresses performed. The Theatre In the Middle Ages plays were religious. draughts and backgammon. . There were no female actors in Tudor times. So did games like tennis and shuttlecock. Secular plays were written. These included games such as chess. Others followed. In the early 17th century boys played women's parts. However in the late 18th century theatres were built in most towns. Furthermore Charles II also made yachting a popular sport.then flipped your hand over and tried to catch them. both comedies and tragedies. In the 16th century theatre became separated from religion. In Tudor times people learned to swim using bundles of bulrushes as floats. Boys played women's parts. In the early 16th century actors performed in market squares or inn courtyards. They were regarded as layabouts who did no useful work. The theatre was also popular. They were based on Bible stories or were meant to teach the people Christian values. Those who could afford the best seats were sheltered from the weather. The Jockey Club was formed in 1727. In London pleasure gardens were created. In the early 17th century the stage jutted out into the audience. Theatre began again in 1660. Horse racing was carried on for centuries before the 18th century but at this time it became a professional sport. However Tudor governments were suspicious of actors.

(Again they believed that bathing in seawater was good for your health). The Times began in 1785. During the 19th century sports became organised. Smoking clay pipes was popular in the 18th century. Southport and Blackpool boomed. Bognor. Seaside resorts like Brighton. In the 1870s some skilled workers began to have Saturday afternoon off. In the 1890s most workers gained a half day holiday on Saturday and the weekend was born. So was taking snuff. They believed that bathing in and/or drinking spa water could cure illness. Meanwhile Australian rules football was invented in 1858. By the early 19th century many people disapproved of cruel 'sports' like bull baiting and cock fighting. The first international match was held between England and Scotland in 1872. At the end of the 18th century wealthy people began to spend time at the seaside. Boxing without gloves was also popular (although some boxers began to wear leather gloves in the 18th century). Also in the 18th century rich people visited spas. He intended to teach geography by cutting maps into pieces but soon people began making jigsaws for entertainment. John Spilsbury made the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767. 19th Century Games In 1871 the Bank Holiday Act gave workers a few paid holidays each year. In the 18th century many people still watched cruel 'sports' like cockfighting and bull baiting. Bull baiting was banned in 1835. The first cricket club was formed at Hambledon in Hampshire about 1750. Reading was also a popular pastime and the first novels were published at this time. Cock fighting followed soon afterwards. In the 18th century wealthy young men would go on a 'grand tour' of Europe lasting one or two years. Also in the 1870s some clerks and skilled workers began to have a weeks paid annual holiday. . Towns like Buxton. Rich people liked fox hunting. In the early 19th century everyone had Sunday off. Public executions were also popular and they drew large crowds. Books were still expensive but in many towns you could pay to join a circulating library. Puppet shows like Punch and Judy also drew the crowds. The first daily newspaper in England was printed in 1702. Bath and Tunbridge prospered. The London Football Association devised the rules of football in 1863. However even at the end of the 19th century most people had no paid holidays except bank holidays.Moreover a kind of cricket was played long before the 18th century but at that time it took on its modern form. Furthermore in the late 18th century the circus became a popular form of entertainment.

In the 19th century going to the seaside was very popular with those who could afford it. The safety bicycle went on sale in 1885 and in 1892 John Boyd Dunlop invented pneumatic tyres (much more comfortable than solid rubber ones!) Bicycling clubs became common. Middle class Victorians were also very fond of the theatre. The first pleasure pier was built at Brighton in 1823 and soon they appeared at seaside resorts across Britain.In 1867 John Graham Chambers drew up a list of rules for boxing. In 1841 Edgar Allen Poe published the first detective story The Murders In The Rue Morgue. It was written in a deliberately sensational style to attract readers with little education. The American Professional Football Association was formed in 1920. However newspapers did not become really common until the end of the 19th century. The National League was formed in 1876. Furthermore many middle class Victorians enjoyed musical evenings when they gathered around a piano and sang. American football evolved in the late 19th century. which made them cheaper. In 1896 the Daily Mail appeared. Stamp duty on newspapers was abolished in 1855. Baseball is believed to have evolved from earlier games but it became an organised sport in 1845. Archery was considered a suitable sport for women. It was considered 'ladylike'. Henry Fox Talbot took the first photograph in 1835. However photography was more than just a pastime. The first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet was published in 1887 by Arthur Conan Doyle. Basketball was invented in 1891 by James Naismith. Although a form of tennis was played since the Middle Ages lawn tennis was invented in 1873. 1880. One new hobby in the 19th century was photography. Reading was also popular in the 19th century. The steam driven printing press was invented in 1814 allowing newspapers to become more common. It came to Britain c. The Amateur Athletics Association was founded in 1880. Volleyball was invented in 1895 by William Morgan. They were called the Queensberry Rules after the Marquis of Queensberry. Ludo was originally an Indian game. In 1871 a writer said that one of the great comforts for the working class was having a photo of a . The International Ice Hockey Federation was formed in 1908. Ice hockey became an organised sport in the 1870s. At the end of the 19th century bicycling became a popular sport. William Webb Ellis is supposed to have invented Rugby at Rugby school in 1823 when he picked up a football and ran with it. Several new sports and games were invented during the 19th century. In the late 19th century there were also music halls where a variety of acts were performed. Snooker was invented in India in 1875.

At first the films were silent but the first 'talkie'. In 1939 a new law said that everyone must have one weeks annual paid holiday. The Jazz Singer. . TV was suspended during World War II but it began again in 1946. By the 1980s it was 39 hours. The first Olympic Winter Sports were held in 1924. for those who like shopping. Television began in Britain in 1936 when the BBC began broadcasting. Meanwhile the first Grand Prix was held in 1906 and the first Le Mans 24 hour race was held in 1923. was made in 1927. In 1907 Robert Baden-Powell formed the boy scouts. Meanwhile in the late 19th century town councils laid out public parks for recreation. Early films were also black and white but in the 1930s the first colour films were made. A lot of people bought a TV set to watch the coronation of Elizabeth II and a survey at the end of the that year showed that about one quarter of households had one. To read more about life in the 19th century click here. The first children's playground was built in a park in Manchester in 1859. They could be reminded what their loved one looked like.family member who was working a long way off. 20th Century Games During the 20th century people had more and more leisure time. The first cheap camera was invented in 1888 by George Eastman. The Olympic Games were revived in 1896. In 1910 the girl guides were formed. Afterwards photography became a popular hobby. Ping Pong was introduced in 1905 and the first crossword was devised in 1913 by Arthur Wynne. Furthermore in 1900 most people had no paid holidays except bank holidays. The great age of cinema going was the 1930s when most people went at least once and sometimes twice a week. By the 1950s two weeks were common and by the 1980s most people had at least 4 weeks annual holiday. In the early 20th century films were often shown in theatres but an increasing number of purpose built cinemas appeared. In 1900 the average working week was 54 hours. (Although it was decades before all films were made in colour. Monopoly was introduced in 1934. Lastly. It was followed by Scrabble in 1938. In 1900 Frank Hornby invented a toy called Mecca no. Radio broadcasting began in 1922 when the BBC was formed. TV first became common in the 1950s. Cluedo in 1949 and Trivial Pursuit in 1982. the first department store opened in London in 1863. By 1933 half the households in Britain had a radio.

At first there was only one TV channel but between 1955 and 1957 the ITV companies began broadcasting. furthermore in the late 20th century gardening became a very popular pastime. Portable TVs became common in the 1980s and satellite broadcasting began in 1989. the internet became common in the 1990s. The internet became common in the 1990s. BBC 1 followed in 1969.By 1959 about two thirds of homes had a TV. In Britain BBC 2 began broadcasting in colour in 1967. BBC2 began in 1964 and Channel 4 began in 1982. At the end of the century videos were replaced by DVDs. Personal computers became common in the 1980s. which declined in popularity. Furthermore in the late 20th century gardening became a very popular pastime. Many video hire shops opened at the that time. Satellite or cable TV became common in the 1990s.at the expense of cinema. So did DIY. Video recorders became common in the early 1980s. By 1964 the figure had reached 90% and TV had become the main form of entertainment . So did DIY . PERSONAL computers became common in the 1980s.