Work and Play

The Production and Consumption of Toys in Germany, 1870-1914
David D. Hamlin
Explores the history of the German toy industry and the role of toys and play in the evolution of a bourgeois German lifestyle


The development of toys in late nineteenth century Germany represents a perhaps surprising, but nonetheless extremely valuable tool for understanding the influence of consumerism on Wilhelmine society at a time of extreme social transformation. The rapid development of commerce in toys brought to the industry a significant increase in national wealth and power, but toys also became a site for contesting social and cultural problems. Would consumer capitalism lead to greater wealth or more exploitation? Should toys train young children in desirable adult traits or unlock the doors of fantasy? What were the implications for modern individualism and society inherent in these alternatives? Through the lenses of producers, distributors, retailers, consumers, pedagogues as well as cultural and social reformers, Hamlin explores how this new industry helped to lead the way toward German modernity.

David Hamlin is Assistant Professor of History at Fordham University.

Praise / Awards

  • "Exciting in the scope of its analytic purview, Work and Play explores not only the traditional business history of the toy industry in the Second Empire but also the cultural history of toys as well as the intellectual debates about the place of play in the cultivation of bourgeois individuals. In each arena, Hamlin makes extremely valuable contributions."
    —Andrew Stuart Bergerson, Associate Professor of History at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and author of Ordinary Germans in Extraordinary Times: The Nazi Revolution in Hildesheim

  • "A creative, groundbreaking study. By using the toy industry to explore the 'reciprocal relationship between economics and culture,' Hamlin shows how imperial Germany was transformed by the evolving structures and practices of mass retailing and consumption."
    —Dennis Sweeney, Associate Professor of History and Classics, University of Alberta

  • "Via an original analysis of toys and play, David Hamlin beautifully reconstructs the meaning of consumption, production, modernity, and individualism in Germany. Similar to toys, this book is full of surprises and insights!"
    —Alon Confino, Professor of Modern German and European History, University of Virginia

  • "David Hamlin takes that most humble, intimate, and whimsical of objects, the childhood toy, as a prism through which to re-evaluate Wilhelmine Germany's economic and social modernity. And indeed, in this fascinating, ambitious account, the toy industry proves an ideal case study for the topic."
    —Eva Giloi, Journal of Social History

  • "Work and Play holds important implications for business history, labor history, the history of consumption, and the history of subjectivity . . . in an especially complex and interesting way."
    —Mary Jo Maynes, University of Minnesota, Central European History

  • "Hamlin's sophisticated discussion is...always rewarding, and his overarching analytical framework is convincing...readers will not be disappointed with the quality of his research and insights."
    —Jeff Bowersox, American Journal of Play

  • "...Work and Play offers a sophisticated portrait of the toy industry and the culture that supported it.  Its analyses are deeper, subtler, and mre complex than this review can do justice to here.  It is a must-read for any reader of this journal."
    —Andrew Donson, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Enterprise and Society

Look Inside

Copyright © 2007, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 304pp.
  • 5 charts, 7 b&w illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2007
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11588-4

Add to Cart
  • $89.95 U.S.