hist-games: Freq. Asked Questions -- Part II

David KUIJT kuijt at umiacs.umd.edu
Mon Oct 20 13:16:43 PDT 1997

> David Kuijt/Dafydd ap Gwystl writes:
> 	[snip for brevity]
> > Back to the original question, my impression is that ball/ball games,
> > ball/pin games, and stick/pin games are all parallel (although likely
> > related) families of games that go back at least through the 12th century. 
> > I have no information about how far back they go beyond that. 
> > As for the exact origin of ball vs 9 pins in particular, I'd have to go
> > back and look at my data.
> Thank you.  As you seem to be the resident expert, could you write the 
> brief, one-paragraph answer for the FAQ II?
> 	10.) Is the game ... period?

Here's your paragraph:

Games involving throwing or rolling balls towards various numbers of
target pins go back at least to the 12th century, and probably earlier. 
Some of these games were played with weighted or non-spherical balls that
rolled in an arc rather than a straight line.  Other related games
involved throwing sticks at pins rather than rolling a ball at them.
Non-pin bowling, where the aim is to come closest to a smaller target
ball, is also very old.

Commentary -- 
I don't like saying "very old" at the end for bocce/lawn bowling games.  I
think that they go back to the Romans, and they may be far older, but I
don't remember off-hand, and I don't want to mis-state the case.  If I get
some time, I'll look it up.

Also, I hate saying something is "period".  Bowling in an alley beside a
tavern is a normal sport in 16c York (England).  But not in Jorvik
(10th-11th century York).

Totally irrelevant note:

When researching and re-creating bowling games I've been struck by the
possible impact of the surface on the development of the game.  The 17c
bowling described by Cotton is clearly on a relatively smooth lawn,
perhaps similar to modern lawn bowling surfaces.  Without any supporting
information, it seems to me that bowling games moved from the more simple
(one pin or few pins; unbiased balls) to the more complex (multiple pins; 
biased balls).  The more complex games are only interesting on a smoother
surface.  My unsubstantiated guess is that the introduction of smoother
surfaces (dedicated lawns for bowling) allowed for the development of
greater skill and games requiring still more still.

Going WAY out on a limb, it would be interesting to attempt to correlate
the rise of the middle class in the later middle ages (closely related to
the Black Death)  with its concomittant increase in leisure time (to play
purely entertainment sports like bowling) and luxury (well-kept bowling
lawns) for the bulk of the population.  If such a correlation were proved,
you could make wild statements like : the Black Plague is linked to the
development of multiple-pin bowling.  A great thing to say the next time
you rent your bowling shoes at the downtown Bowl-a-rama.

David Kuijt/Dafydd ap Gwystl

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