Games for Boys: Masculinity, Boyhood and Play 1922–1939

  • Mary HatfieldEmail author
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


This chapter proposes that games for Irish boys in the 1930s are a significant avenue for exploring what forms of masculinity were valued most in the Irish Free State. Hatfield questions how young boys in the Irish Free State used, challenged, and transgressed dominant notions of masculinity within their daily lives through their chosen elements of ‘play’. The format of informal games on the streets, in the home, and on playgrounds reflected boys’ lived realities just as much or even more than the fantastical expressions one might expect from childhood imaginations. Underscoring these forms of play were concerns about childhood health and the Irish Free State’s interest in bolstering the mental and physical health of a vulnerable group on their journey to full manhood.



I am grateful to the Queen’s University Belfast, School of History and Anthropology Postgraduate Busary for supporting this research. I would also like to acknowledge the University College Dublin, National Folklore Archive for allowing me access to their collections. Thanks to Elaine Farrell and Ciaran O’Neill for reading various iterations of this research.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Government of Ireland Senior Scholar, Hertford CollegeUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

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