Little Wars Revisited

In middle school I found a library copy of H. G. Wells’ delightful and whimsical guide to miniature war gaming called Little Wars. The original edition came out in 1913. I doubt the library still has it. A lot of books that were beloved classics for generations of younger readers, like the C. B. Colby illustrated volumes or the Heritage and Landmark histories, have since been ruthlessly “deacquisitioned.” (But if you’re lucky you can benefit from these purges by finding cheap copies at discard sales). At any rate, I was reminded of Wells’ book on miniature combat by a nice little retrospective in The New York Times.

Wells entertained a number of notable literary and political figures with his diversion…. G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc were among Wells’s guests while he was developing the game.

The reviewer says that Wells’ world of imaginary warfare is a far cry from the real thing. But then that’s the point of toy soldiers and “playing war.” In my childhood, at any rate, these activities were not about really about violence, but about adventure, heroism, and fantasy. These original “interactive” toys promoted organizing and creativity on a juvenile scale, much like dolls do for girls. I’ve never objected to young males being given plastic guns and tanks. I do object to them being exposed to sadistic video games and films.

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