The History of Toy Soldiers...


...from Pen and Sword Books



Title: The History of Toy Soldiers

Author: Luigi Toiati

Publisher: Pen & Sword

ISBN: 978-1-47389-729-8


What a fascinating book.  This large book, with over 600 pages, is quite excellent. We usually think of the 'toy soldier' as a toy for children, with glossy paint and looking very colourful. This takes the story much further back, as model soldiers were found in some form as far back as the Egyptians and the Romans. We see how they have evolved over the years, and been made from clay, wood, metal and even paper, before getting to the plastic offerings of more recent years.

The author tells us of the very earliest figures, and goes through their evolution over many years. Fashions have changed a lot over time, and the huge range of Flat figures made in Europe then had half-round and then full round figures all being made, with details of the various manufactures around Europe, in particular Germany among others. Different materials and evolving manufacturing methods allowed for a huge variety of sizes and styles. For metal cast figures, lead was used for many years, but in the mid-1960's that was banned for safety reasons. They were used for simple play, as displays and for wargaming. They had something of a revolution with Britains's products, mass produced and readily available. It does include that they also included non-military subjects so civilan subjects are included. The book is profusely illustrated throughout with some excellent colour photos of so many different examples, and a lot from the author's own collection.

The author is a long time collector, who has spent years working within the Toy Soldier business. He has a great love of his subject, and this shines through from start to finish. I am a military modeller and while I have never been one for collecting Toy Soldiers with their glossy paint finishes but I have certainly admired them over the years, visiting shops in London such as Tradition and Under Two Flags, both sadly not there any more, along with various fine museum collection displays. Some of the company names I am familiar with, but many were totally new to me. While we get to the appearance of the plastic soldiers from Airfix in the 1960's/70's that I started with, that is but a small part of the story. These days they are not really toys for children, but have a large market for adult collectors who are able/willing to pay prices that few children could afford. A beautifully presented book, a very useful reference and a really interesting read as well.

Thanks to Pen and Sword for this review copy.