Is the Game of Ur the oldest game in history? How and why do historians study games, and what can games tell us about the people who played them?

Professor Elizabeth Lapina talks to Professor Sarah Thal about the history of games. They discuss the games people played in the past, including those still familiar to us today (like Snakes & Ladders and chess) and those that are less well-remembered. As Elizabeth explains, games were a means of self-improvement, demonstrating one’s status, showing respect, and winning friendship and love. Elizabeth says that games were important to people in the past, so they should be important to historians, too.

The full show transcript is available on our website.

Episode Links: 

Elizabeth Lapina is Associate Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Sarah Thal is the David Kuenzi and Mary Wyman Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Elizabeth’s newest book, which she co-edited with Vanina Kopp, is Games and Visual Culture in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Brepols, 2021).

Our music is “Pamgaea” by Kevin MacLeod. Link: CC BY 4.0 license:

Please send us your questions for a historian:

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