2-3 | Work and Play: The Production and Consumption of Toys in Germany, 1870–1914

Book Review

Work and Play: The Production and Consumption of Toys in Germany, 1870–1914

David D. Hamlin
Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2007. Illustrations, references, bibliography, index. x, 286 pp. $75.00 cloth. ISBN: 9780472115884

Toys, Consumption, and Middle-Class Childhood in Imperial Germany, 1871–1918

Bryan Ganaway
Oxford, England: Peter Lang, 2009. Illustrations, references, bibliography, index. xi, 287 pp. $55.95 paper. ISBN: 9783039115488

by Jeff Bowersox

First Paragraph:

If you believe the German toy industry’s own hype, around the turn of the twentieth century it had cornered 60 percent of the world market and dominated its own domestic market. Even if you are skeptical about these particular numbers, it is certainly true that German toy makers were the most successful toy exporters in the world and profited more from foreign consumers (above all in America and Britain) than from their compatriots. Given these sorts of connections, developments in Germany take on particular relevance for anyone interested in the changing nature of childhood and play in Europe and North America before World War I. Fortunately, we have in David Hamlin’s and Bryan Ganaway’s recent studies—both revised versions of their dissertations—good surveys of the development of the German toy industry and the cultural associations surrounding its products. Both use toys to illustrate the nexus of mass consumption, rising middle-class ideals, and changing notions of childhood that have been the focus of much recent research. Their works also implicitly suggest the value of a more holistic, transnational approach to the history of play and childhood.