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190 × 135 × 15 mm
216 pages
99 illustrations, 64 in colour
28 May 2018

Zebra Christopher Plumb, Samuel Shaw

Common and exotic, glamorous and ferocious, sociable and sullen: zebras mean many things to many people. The extraordinary beauty of their striped coats makes them one of the world’s most recognizable animals. They have been immortalized in paint by artists including George Stubbs and Lucian Freud, and zebra-print designs permeate contemporary society – on beanbags and bikinis, car seats and pencil cases. Zebras even have a road crossing named after them. But the natural and cultural history of the zebra remains a mystery to most. Few know that there are three species of zebra, or that one of these is currently endangered, or that the quagga, an animal that once roamed southern Africa in large numbers before dying out in the 1880s, is among the zebra’s many subspecies.

Zebra is a comprehensive and wide-ranging study of the natural and cultural history of this popular animal. Using a wide range of sources and stories, it shows how the zebra’s history engages and intersects with diverse topics, including eighteenth-century humour, imperialism and camouflage technologies. Including more than a hundred illustrations, many previously unpublished, it offers a new way of thinking about this much-loved but frequently misunderstood animal.

Zebra is neither a book of zoology nor a book on history, though it contains both. Written by a cultural historian and an art historian, it is a ultimately sociocultural history that covers the human interaction with the zebra as both an animal and an icon. The book is about the zebra, but the focus is on humans: how humans discovered the zebra, how we reacted to it, how we've interpreted it, how we've used it. The volume covers ancient art and modern fashion (zebra striped clothing is, for some reason, more commonly made for women), zebras in art, comics, and diplomacy, and zebras as representations of sociological issues . . . The pictures are small but of good quality and bright. Recommended.’ — Choice

‘Everything you ever wanted to know about zebras can be found right here in black and white in this remarkable book . . . Part of Reaktion Books’ ambitious Animal series, which presents various animals from a natural and cultural history perspective, this exhaustively researched and brilliantly crafted volume is appropriate for college or advanced high school readers. It would be a valuable addition to a classroom library . . . Profusely illustrated with captivating photographs.’ — American Biology Teacher

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Christopher Plumb is a cultural historian and his first book was The Georgian Menagerie: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-century London (2015).

Samuel Shaw is an artist, writer and art historian. He teaches at the University of Birmingham.