Pleasure and Leisure: Toys, Games, and Entertainment in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age

Albrecht Classen's picture
May 4, 2018
Arizona, United States
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, German History / Studies, Humanities, Literature, Medieval and Byzantine History / Studies

This is an international symposium, discussing an important, but mostly ignored area of pre-modern life, that is, pleasure and leisure, combined with an investigation of toys, games, and entertainment. In our research we tend to focus on courtly life, knighthood, the Church, courtly literature, war, politics, economics, and travel. However, just as today, people in the past also needed entertainment, enjoyment, fun, and games. Those were also mentioned in the literary sources and are reflected, to some extent, in visual documents. But it would be difficult, if not impossible, to identify a medieval or early modern painting presenting to us a drinking party, or a winter scene with the entire population enjoying the outdoors despite the cold temperatures, as was no longer so unusual in the late Renaissance and the Baroque (van Eyck, Rubens, etc.). Nevertheless, a careful examination of available narratives or data can shed light on the ways how people spent their leisure time, and how they managed to enjoy an evening in friendly company also in the Middle Ages and beyond.

Contact Info: 

Dr. Albrecht Classen

University Distinguished Professor

Dept. of German Studies, 301 LSB, The University of Arizona

520 621-1395;