Royal Geographic Game
“The Royal Geographical Pastime: Exhibiting a Complete Tour Round The World. In which are delineated the North East and North West Passages into the South Sea, and other modern Discoveries” turned Britain’s worldwide empire into a board game. Created in 1770 by Thomas Jefferys (c.1719-1771), a prominent cartographer who was appointed as geographer to George III in 1760, it tracked sailing routes around the world, beginning and ending in England itself.
In doing so, it highlighted England’s main trade partners, items of trade, and parts of world history as it related to Britain’s role in the world. It also detailed the collective imperial holdings at the height of the first British Empire. The game, which we have made into an interactive that viewers may play, introduced players to various territories, many of which Britain claimed, helping to reinforce to players the impressiveness of Britain’s empire.
Maps have been well recognized as imbuing legitimacy to imperial claims and helping distant people imagine their superiority and rightful ownership of faraway lands. In creating a “playable map,” Jefferys further instilled a sense of ownership and participation in the imperial project, allowing players to “visit” and “obtain” territories across the globe and across European empires.
The game is like “chutes and ladders” for American audiences or “snakes and ladders” for British ones. You begin at zero, with 8-sided dice, and the player with the highest roll goes first. You precede around the world, advancing, losing turns, or in a few cases going back, as each number tells you. You begin in England, and travel using actual trade routes (with the exception of the “Northwest passage” –a “ladder” as we would say in the modern game, but which was not actually at that time either discovered or open, regardless of what the map states (since 2007, it has been open routinely due to global warming). It is a harsher game than modern ones, in that you can actually die (not just lose!). You can also learn much about British views of the world then, and the importance of trade.
As you play the game, consider what you learn about the various territories you stop at. What sorts of information is relayed? Which are the worst and best places to land? Why?
- Black, Jeremy. Maps and politics. London: Reaktion Books, 1993.
- Seed, P. and MacKenzie, J.M. (2016). Cartography and empire. In The Encyclopedia of Empire (eds N. Dalziel and J.M. MacKenzie). https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118455074.wbeoe431
- Worms, Laurence. “Jefferys, Thomas (c. 1719–1771), engraver, cartographer, and publisher.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 23 Sep. 2004; Accessed 10 Feb. 2022. https://www-oxforddnb-com.proxy-um.researchport.umd.edu/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-14696.
- Image courtesy of Boston Rare Maps Incorporated, Southampton, Mass.
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Transcription of Game Directions
FROM two to six persons may play at this game; and to determine which of them is to spin first, each is to turn the Totum, and the highest number is to begin, and then the next greatest.
The turned pillars are called the Travellers, who are supposed to make the TOUR ROUND THE WORLD; each of the players having one, which he is to place upon the number turned up.
The four Counters of the same colour with the Travellers, are to be employed as markers, and are called Servants: Whenever the player is obliged to wait one turn or more, he is to lay down as many Counters or Servants as he is directed to wait turns (this never exceeds four); and when it comes to his turn to spin again, instead of spinning, he must take up one Servant, and so on, till they are all taken up, and then proceed according to the following
THE Totum [dice] has eight faces, distinguished by proper Numbers: The person who plays first spins it, and according to the number which comes up he places his Traveller: For instance, if he turns up No. 3, he is to place it upon the Canary Islands, and there stay till it is his turn to spin again; if at the second spin he turns up the No. 2, he adds 2 to 3, which being 5, he removes his Traveller from the Canary Islands to Senegal; which being the capital of Senegambia, hi is in that case to reckon his last spring or turn twice over, and this will conduct him to No. 7, and so on throughout the game, whenever the chances bring him to any of the following places:
BOMBAY. ISPAHAN. MANILLA. CAYENNE.
GOA. TOBOLSKY. MEXICO. HAVANNA.
MADRASS. PEKING. LIMA. NEW ORLEANS.
DELHI. BATAVIA. ST. SALVADOR. QUEBEC.
The players attending to the instructions hereafter given, will proceed regularly towards No. 103, which is at the Land’s End; and he who is fortunate enough to gain this number, wins the game: But as the chances of the play will oftener carry him beyond than exactly to it, he is then to return back to No. 89, which is at Oroonoko-River; where he must remain till it comes to his turn to spin and try his fortune again; and this method is to be pursued by all the players, till one of them hits the lucky number.
- AZORES, or Western Islands–subject to Portugal.
- MADEIRA ISLANDS–subject to Portugal; famous for excellent wine.
- CANARY ISLANDS, antiently called the Fortunate Islands–subject to Spain; famous for the Pike of Teneriff, reckoned to be the highest land in the known world; and for palm-sack and canary-birds.
- CAPE VERD ISLANDS–subject to Portugal; so called from their beautiful verdure when first discovered.
- SENEGALl–situated on Senegal River, which rises in the Gold-Country, the capital of Senegambia. It was taken by the English in 1758.
- GOREE–here the traveller must stay one turn. This island was taken from the French in 1759, and restored to them at the peace of 1763.
- ANAMABO–a fort on the Gold Coast, subject to Great Britain.
- ST. SALVADOR–the chief town of Lower Guinea.
- ST. HELENA–the traveller must stay one turn, to see this island, which belongs to the English East-India company, whose ships touch here for water and fresh provisions, in going to and returning from the East-Indies.
- THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE–discovered first by the Portuguese; belongs now to the Dutch East-India company.
- MADAGASCAR–once resorted to by Capt. Avery and other pirates.
- ISLE OF BOURBON–subject to France, and is now the chief magazine for their military and naval forces in the East-Indies.
- JOHANNA–one of the Comora Islands; here the traveller must stay one turn, to purchase courie-shells, which pass as money in the African trade.
- MOCHO–a free port in the Red Sea, where the English East-India company have a factory; and is famous for the best coffee in the world.
- MECCA–here the traveller must stay one turn, to see the place where Abraham worshipped the One True God. Mahomet commanded all his sectb to make a pilgrimage to this place once in their lives.
- MEDINA–the place where Mahomet was buried, whose tomb is also an object of the Mussulmen’s pilgrimage.
- EL TOR–here the traveller must stay one turn. At this place, by the universal tradition of the natives from time immemorial, Moses passed the Red Sea when Pharaoh and his host were drowned.
- PALMYRA, in Scripture called Tadmor–here the traveller must stay one turn, to see the ruins of this place, which was built by Solomon, on the very spot where David slew Goliah, in honour of that noble action.
- BABYLON–once the most populous and magnificent city in the universe. The prophecies on this city are literally fulfilled: “For Babylon is fallen, and become a den of wild beasts.” No traces of it are now remaining.
- ISPAHAN–the capital of Persia, and residence of the shahs of emperors of Persia.
- GOMEROON–the only English settlement on the coast of Persia; is a noble factory, where all their trade in the Persian empire is carried on.
- BOMBAY–being part of king Charles II.’s portion with his queen, he gave it to the English East-India company; and is now their capital settlement, and the seat of government on the Malabar coast.
- GOA–the capital of the Portuguese dominions in India, and famous for fine arrack.
- CEYLON–the sea-ports of which island are now in the possession of the Dutch, is famous for fine cinnamon and large elephants.
- PONDICHERRY–here the traveller must stay one turn, to see this place, the principal settlement of the French in the East-Indies, taken from them by the English last war, but restored at the peace in 1763.
- MADRASS, or Fort. St. George–the capital of the English empire in the East-Indies; and famous for its trade in diamonds.
- CALCUTTA–is the chief settlement in Bengal. Here the traveller must stay two turn, to see one of the richest countries in the world, subject to the English East-India company. This place is noted for its dreadful Black Hole, where 123 of the company’s servants were suffocated in 1757.
- DELHI–at present the capital of the Mongul empire, where Kouli Kan murdered 70,000 Indians in one night.
- SAMARCAND–the seat of Tamerlane the Great. Here the traveller must stay one turn, to visit the prince of the Kalmucks, styled the Kontaytha, or Great Cham of Tartary.
- ASTRAKAN–the only port of the Russians on the Caspian Sea; where Capt. Elton, an Englishman, built ships to trade to Persia for raw silk.
- TOBOLSKY–the capital, and residence of the governors of Siberia; to which place the Russians banish their criminals.
- SELINGINSKY–the last town in Siberia, at which the caravan from Moscow to Pekin is obliged to wait, till they have permission from the emperor of China at Pekin to enter his dominions.
- THE CHINESE WALL–here the traveller must stay one turn, to see one of the wonders of the world, a lasting monument of the Chinese grandeur and cowardice; and is by them called the Everlasting Wall.
- PEKIN–is the capital and residence of the emperor of China, from whence the finest tea in the universe is brought in the caravans to Russia.
- NANKIN–here the traveller must stay one turn, to see this place, famous for Nankin stuffs, China, and its porcelain-tower seven stories high, which is esteemed one of the finest pieces of architecture in China.
- CANTON–the only sea-port in China where European merchants are permitted to trade.
- TIBET–one of the most powerful of the Tartar kingdoms in Asia; the residence of the Dali-Lama, the sovereign pontiff of the Tartars; and famous for the culture of the best rhubarb.
- SIAM–here the traveller must stay one turn, to see their elephants, which abound here more than in any other part of the world.
- MALACA–the principal mart for the trade of the Indies.
- BENCOOLEN–is the principal English settlement on the island of Sumatra, where they trade for pepper, &c.
- BATAVIA–is the capital of the Dutch empire in India.
- BORNEO–the largest island in Asia; made famous for white pepper, &c.
- THE MOLUCCAS, called the Spice Islands–remarkable for their great quantities of spices, which are chiefly engrossed by the Dutch.
- AMBOYNA–remarkable for the cruelty of the Dutch, when they extirpated the English from this Island. Here the traveller must stay two turns.
- MANILLA–the capital of the Philippine Islands, was taken by the English from the Spaniards in 1762, who ransomed it from plunder. The random, however, is not yet paid.
- TINIAN–here the traveller must stay one turn. Here admiral Anson refreshed his men before he sailed for China, and took the Acapulco Ship.
- COREA–a fertile country, tributary to the Chinese, who are jealous of their correspondence with the Russians.
- JAPAN–is the richest country in the world for gold, fine copper, and Japan wares. It was first discovered by the Portuguese, whom they soon banished for their haughty behaviour; and the Dutch are only permitted to trade there on condition of their trampling on a crucifix.
- KAMTSCHATKA–here the traveller must stay one turn, to see where the Russians build ships for their American discoveries.
- BEERING’S ISLAND–remarkable for the death of that enterprising commander, who made the discovery of Petersland in America, 1741.
- LONG-ISLAND–lately discovered and conquered by the Russians, and from whence may be seen both Asia and America. The natives trade in canoes to both continents; and their is all the reason in the world to suppose that America was peopled from Asia by the way of this island. Five of the natives, thought to be Eskimaux Indians, were brought down to Petersburg in 1764. Here the traveller must stay three turns.
- YE-QUE, called the Country of the Dwarfs by the Japanese–whose inhabitants have but one day and one night in the year.
- SPITZBERGEN–resorted to by the Dutch in the whale-fishery.
- GREENLAND–famous for the greatest whale-fishery yet known.
- BAFFIN’S BAY–discovered by an Englishman, in his attempt to find out a North-west passage.
- DAVIS’S STRAITS–remarkable for its whale-fishery, was discovered by an Englishman, in search of a North-west passage.
- HUDSON’S BAY–where the company have several forts and settlements, from whence are sent home great quantities of rich skins and furs.
- THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE into the South Seas–discovered by Admiral de Fonte, a Spanish admiral, from the South Sea, through the Archipelago of St. Lazarus, in 1640. The traveller, who has been so fortunate as to find his way through this Passage, shall be removed to Cape Horn, No. 79.
- NEW ALBION–here the traveller must stay one turn, to see this country, which received its name from Sir Francis Drake, the discoverer, in 1578.
- CALIFORNIA–the inhabitants having no houses, dwell in arbours in summer, and creep into caves in the winter.
- ST. FE–the chief city of New Mexico.
- MEXICO–the capital of New Spain, famous for its magnificent temple of the sun, and for its gold and silver mines.
- LA VERA CRUZ–from this port the wealth of Mexico is sent to Old Spain; and receives, in return, all the luxuries of the Old World.
- ACAPULCO–is the sea-port of Mexico in the South Sea. A great fair for East-India goods is held here in December, on the arrival of the great galleon from Manilla and the annual ship from Lima.
- GALLIPAGOS, or the Enchanted Islands–here the traveller must stay one turn. They were discovered by the Spaniards.
- PANAMA–this town was burnt by the English buccaneers, in 1670.
- QUITO–is so happily situated that neither heat nor cold is troublesome there, the days and nights being of an equal length all the year round.
- PAYTA–Commodore Anson, in his voyage round the world, plundered and burnt this town, the governor refusing to ransom it.
- LIMA, called also Los Reyes, or the City of the Kings–is the capital of Peru; and was almost destroyed by a great earthquake in 1746.
- CUSCO–was the capital of the antient incas of Peru; and famous for the splendid temple of the sun, whose walls were lined with massy gold. The Spaniards found immense quantities of gold here.
- POTOSI–here is the richest silver-mine ever discovered, from whence the Spaniards have drawn immense treasure.
- ASSUMPTION–the principal town of Paraguay; a very large, rich, and well-cultivated country, chiefly the property of the Jesuits, by whom it is governed’ and is famous for Paraguay-tea, that cures the gout.
- LA CONCEPTION–the chief sea-port of Chili, whose women are famous for their great skill in horsemanship.
- BALDIVIA–a sea-port abounding with gold; so named by a Spanish general who built the town, when he had conquered Chili; but was afterwards taken prisoner by the natives, who put him to death by pouring melted gold down his throat.
- JUAN FERNANDES–Alex. Selkirk lived on this island four years and four months; which gave the hints for the history of Robinson Crusoe.
- GEORGE’S LANDS, in the South Seas–discovered by Davis, and other English navigators.
- PATAGONIA–here the traveller must stay one turn, to see the supposed race of giants, with which we have been lately amused.
- MAGELLAN STRAITS–so named from Magellan, who, in attempted to sail around the world, discovered and passed through these Straits into the South Sea, in 1520.
- CAPE HORN–round this Cape is the safest passage into the South Sea.
- FALKLAND’S ISLANDS–discovered by Sir Rich. Hawkins, in 1593.
- PORT JULIAN–here the traveller must stay one turn; where ships bound to the South Sea usually touch. It is famous for vast numbers of birds, called by the Indians and Welch Penguins, or White-heads.
- BUENOS AYRES–so called from the fine temperature of its air. Great part of the treasures and merchandizes of Peru and Chili are brought down the River Plate, and shipped hence for Old Spain.
- ISLAND OF ST. CATHERINE–here the traveller must stay one turn. To this place privateers used to resort; and here Lord Anson refreshed his men.
- RIO JANEIRO–from hence a great quantity of gold, silver, and diamonds are sent to Lisbon.
- ST. SALVADOR–which has a commodious harbour, is the capital of Brazil, so named from the quantity of that wood which grows here.
- AMAZON-RIVER–the greatest in the world. It has been falsly said, that a nation of fighting women, called Amazons, dwell on its bank.
- CAYENNE–the capital of the French settlements in South-America. It produces large quantities of coffee.
- SURINAM–chief of the Dutch settlements in Guiana, which the English gave to the Dutch for New-York. Here the famous Oroonoko was put to death by Governor Byam. Mrs. Behn being present, relates the story in her Novels; from whence Mr. Southern wrote that celebrated tragedy. Hence the traveller, in memory of this cruel action, must be banished to Palmyra, No 18, and miss four turns.
- OROONOKO River–here Sir Walter Raleigh, the last of Queen Elizabeth’s worthies, went in search of a gold mine; for which he lost his head by the intrigues of the court of Spain.
- THE CARIBEEES–here the traveller must stay one turn. This range of islands is so named from the natives, who are falsly said to be men-eaters.
- HISPANIOLA–Columbus built St. Domingo, its chief town, in honour of his father. It was taken by Sir Fancis Drake in 1586.
- JAMAICA–is famous for good rum; and was taken from the Spaniards, in 1656, by Pen and Venables.
- CARTHAGENA–one of the best-fortified towns and harbours in America. It was taken by Sir Francis Drake in 1585, but bassled all Admiral Vernon’s efforts to take it in 1741.
- PORTO-BELLO–here the traveller must stay one turn. This port was taken by Admiral Vernon, with six ships only, in 1740.
- HONDURAS–famous for great quantities of logwood, and for the Moskito Indians, or nation of Little Breeches. They were never conquered by the Spaniards, and are in alliance with the English.
- NEW ORLEANS–the capital of Louisiana, lately ceded by the French to the Spaniards.
- FLORIDA–here the traveller must stay one turn. This country was ceded to Great Britain by the French and Spaniards, at the peace in 1763.
- CUBA–Havana, the capital of this island, was taken by the English in 1762, and restored to the Spaniards at the peace of 1763. At this place all the galleons from the different ports of Spanish America make up the flota, and take their departure for Old Spain.
- BAHAMA ISLANDS–noted for shipwrecks, and often fatal to the Spanish galleons, and to the traveller, who will lie shipwrecked on these islands, and lose his chance for the game.
- NEW-YORK–the mart of trade for N. America and the West-Indies.
- QUEBEC–the capital of Canada. Here the gallant General Wolfe lost his life in the battle before this town, Oct. 18, 1759. The city surrendered two days after, to General Townshend.
- NEWFOUNDLAND–famous for its cod-fishery, which is reputed the greatest yet known in the world. Here the traveller must stay one turn, to eat a dish of chauder, and drink a cup of black strap.
- LAND’S END–being the first pleasant place in England which is seen by mariners in their return from long voyages, and is equally wished for by players–IS THE GAME.