Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Board games--Social aspects--United States; Cold War--Influence;


This thesis examines the domestic culture of the United States during the first two decades of the Cold War, using popular games as an interpretive tool to expand our understanding of the changes that took place. Four board games which were popular during the 1950s – Scrabble, chess, Clue, and Risk – explain some of the anxieties and evolutions in mass culture. Scrabble illustrated the nation's growing respect for expertise and, along with game theory, the hope for intellectual solutions to the country's problems. Chess, often seen as a symbol of the Cold War, served as a proxy battlefield for the United States and Soviet Union to challenge each other. Clue reflected an increasingly domestic, suburban society that was struggling with fears of subversion and betrayal. Risk provided a safe battlefield for imaginary wars devoid of politics or ideology. The game of poker is also considered, as its fundamental connection to gambling and also its gender biases pointed toward places that American culture was going. The work of historians such as Jackson Lears and Stephen Whitfield provide the theoretical foundation for this thesis, particularly Lears's concept of the culture of control and the culture of chance. Further analytical models come from the work of play theorists like Brian Sutton-Smith, who have examined the serious nature of children's games.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of History

First Advisor

Brian Roberts

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (vi, 90 pages)



File Format