Venetian merry-go-round/carousel
Photograph by M. Williams, 2010

The merry-go-round is known as a carrousel in French, in turn derived from the Italian word 'carousello' meaning 'little war' after a Moorish game Spanish crusaders brought back with them to Italy. A variation of this game reached the court of Charles VIII of France and the carrousel soon became an important part of military dressage in Paris. In 1662, Louis XIV continued this tradition in a square still known today as the Place du Carrousel. One of the featured events was the mediaeval Moorish sport of ring piercing. To practise this game, models of horses on beams were placed around a central pole and this was powered by real horses or servants. The machine became very popular and spread throughout Europe. The English engineer Frederick Savage had specialised in fairground machinery, and by 1870, he applied his knowledge to the French concept of the carrousel which gave rise to the merry-go-round as we know today.


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