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Gold in the land of promise

The discovery of gold in Australia in 1851 had a massive impact on the way Britain imagined the colonies.

A hand-coloured lithographic playing board made of eight paper sections mounted on linen, with a polygonal twelve-sided teetotum or spinning dice and three small painted metal playing pieces in the shape of tall ships. A varnished wooden box and a instruction sheet have been placed beside the game board.
Race to the Gold Diggings of Australia game

Gold shifted the perception of the colonies from a back-water to a land of promise. It captured popular imagination across class, gender and age.

'Race to the Gold Diggings of Australia' shows how interest in the gold rush was brought into the lives of middle class children through play.

It invites children to imagine the excitement and wealth promised by a journey to the far reaches of the British Empire.

Board games as a window to the world

The history of board games extends to ancient times. They were usually played by adults until the late 18th century, when a market for moral and educational children's games arose in middle class England.

Many people left Britain to make the journey to Australia but others connected with the gold rush vicariously, through reading, looking at pictures and play.

Children were encouraged to learn about the world from the safety of their living rooms as adults learned about the lure of gold from newspaper articles, traveller's accounts and art.

'Race to the Gold Diggings of Australia' was made in London around 1855. It is an excellent example of the economic, social and cultural impacts that the discovery of gold in Australia had on Britain.

See more board games in the Museum's collection

In our collection

Race to the Gold Diggings board gameA boxed board game titled "Race to the Gold Diggings" which contains: a hand coloured lithographic playing board made of eight paper sections mounted on linen, a polygonal twelve sided teetotum or spinning dice (possibly made of bone or ivory?) numbered in red and black inks, three small painted metal, (possibly a tin alloy?) pl...
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