Virtually every street in London was once filled with a cacophony of animal calls and noises. From cattle being herded through the streets surrounding Smithfield meat market, to the exotic residents of the Tower of London zoo.
Infested by pests, vermin and bedbugs, Londoner’s homes were also shared with pets or livestock, which were reared for food. Beasts from far-flung corners of the globe were imported through London’s docks for display in all manner of establishments, from private homes and estates, to zoos and parks. Londoners were entertained by ponies flying in hot air balloons, performing fleas, any number of animals baited by dogs and the ubiquitous horse, which plied the streets as an essential cog in the machine of London’s industry and transport. Over the last 30 years, however, Londoners have seemingly banished animals from their streets.
Using a wide range of primary sources Beastly London explores the complex and changing relationship between Londoners of all classes and their animal neighbours: from a mainly exploitative relationship, to London becoming the birthplace of animal welfare societies and animal rights’ campaigns. This appealing book, now available in paperback, shows how London’s animals have been central to its success, and will appeal to all those interested in animal history and welfare.
‘Velten’s sumptuously illustrated, well-researched history of the city is a comprehensive and accessible account of changing and complex animal-human relationships . . . deeply absorbing.’ – History Today
‘Well researched, it is written in a popular style. It covers animal life from a variety of angles . . . beautifully produced and packed with a variety of well-chosen images, ranging from lithographs and photographs to paintings and cartoons.’ – TLS
‘Anyone with an interest in urban development, sociology, and particularly English literature should consider their own libraries incomplete without a copy of Beastly London readily available on the shelves.’ – The Well-read Naturalist
Hannah Velten is a freelance writer based in Fletching, Sussex, and the author of Cow (Animal series, 2007) and Milk (Edible series, 2010), both published by Reaktion Books.