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250 × 190 × 42 mm
512 pages
161 illustrations, 66 in colour
01 Nov 2011
  • £40.00

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Animal Encounters Human and Animal Interaction in Britain from the Norman Conquest to World War I Arthur MacGregor

Until the advent of steam and later the internal combustion engine, the fortunes of man and beast were intimately and essentially bound together. Animals played a variety of fundamental roles in a range of human work and leisure activities such as transport, agriculture, industry, warfare, sport and recreation. Their importance to human progress has become increasingly hard to grasp for our largely urbanized society, from which the animal world has become ever more remote.

Animal Encounters draws on the author’s lifetime interest in the fields of art history, topographical literature, archaeology, history and archaeozoology to provide an overview of the evolving relations between the human and animal populations of the British Isles over the past one thousand years.

In this very readable, instructive and well-illustrated narrative, Arthur MacGregor explores the animal kingdom from bees to horses, and the range of human activities, from pigeon-breeding to bear-baiting, that show how interdependent the animal-human relationship has been throughout history. Animal Encounters will have a broad appeal, aimed at all those with sympathy for and an interest in the animal world.

‘This enormous and dazzlingly encyclopaedic history of our relationship with animals over some 900 years is, largely, a tale of barbarity and imposition . . . [MacGregor] documents richly and marvelously untold examples of how we treated the beasts . . . one of the reasons Dr MacGregors book is so valuable: it deals with unadorned realities.’ — Adam Nicolson, The Spectator

‘Perhaps the most original book of the year was Arthur MacGregor’s Animal Encounters. This is the animal in art in an entirely different way by examining how we interact with them through past times, transport, larder and the farm. Sensitive and scholarly, it is a surprising book of calm observation about man’s treatment of animals.’ — James Stourton, Books of the Year, The Art Newspaper

‘Dr MacGregor presents his information with admirable restraint and neutrality . . . this encyclopaedic book is of humbling interest and breathtaking range, brimful of facts and without sentiment no one who affects a care of our animal kingdom, and man’s role in it, should be without it.’ — Rory Knight Bruce, Country Life

‘an unusual volume, eminently readable, full of unfamiliar information and one that the author clearly enjoyed compiling.’ — Landscape History

‘This attractively illustrated and well-written book is the work of a writer whose scholarship has previously illuminated subjects that range from Roman gems to the history of collections . . . The former museum curator has created a book that is in some sense akin to a museum of curiosities. In the same way that a visitor to an exhibition is drawn to examine an unfamiliar or unexpected object by an attractive display, the readers interest here is easily engaged by the combination of informative description, contemporary comment and well-chosen illustration . . . I thoroughly recommend this book to general and specialist readers alike.’ — Antiquaries Journal

Animal Encounters is packed with information, much of it both fascinating and arcane . . . beautifully produced by Reaktion, on heavy glossy paper that shows the illustrations to advantage.’ — Archives of Natural History

‘this book is fundamentally more than historical in its impact. The topics discussed, and so vividly illustrated, are anthropological assessments for the modern world, using history as base data. There is an immediacy that will surely chime with a contemporary audience as we see our world increasingly sanitized of its non-human animals.’ — History

‘Readers will learn much from this book . . . MacGregor’s valuable work gives much food for thought to all students of human-animal relations in world history.’ — Agricultural History

‘absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the ways we have treated animals and reacted with them over the past millennium. Arthur MacGregor . . . writes lucidly, factually and dispassionately with commendable thoroughness in this he is assisted by some 160 well-chosen illustrations.’ — Animal Watch

‘This is an enthralling book. Surely, no one before has given such a wide-ranging account of peoples encounters with animals through the centuries, revealing all the ingenious ways in which they have handled, tended, exploited, even cruelly sported with them. All the practicalities are described, bringing a rich, and sometimes surprising, story to life, further enhanced by numerous pertinent illustrations. Final remarks on the distance separating us these days from once routine connections with badgers and beavers, wild pigs in forests, pigeons in dovecotes and eels in moats will prompt some sobering reflections. Animal Encounters is riveting from beginning to end.’ — Joan Thirsk, former general editor of the series The Agrarian History of England and Wales

‘critics reviewing the wonderful new book Animal Encounters: Human And Animal interaction In Britain From The Norman Conquest To World War One, by Arthur MacGregor, have gasped over the ancient sport of whipping a blinded bear, but have failed to point out that we are little better today.’ — Liz Jones, Mail on Sunday

‘MacGregor’s account fragments the received narrative of a Great Rupture between modern humans and animals a rupture that is industrial, capitalist, technological, and monolithic into a whole series of developments, some occurring as far back as the medieval period, that made it increasingly easy, convenient and profitable for (European) human beings to separate themselves from animals and thereby exploit them as a resource and en masse. Anyone committed to understanding that complex history, and perhaps challenging its legacy, will find Animal Encounters a rich, accessible and authoritative book.’ — Humanimalia

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Arthur MacGregor is a former archaeologist and was Senior Curator at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. He is a founding editor of the Journal of the History of Collections and the author of Bone, Antler, Ivory and Horn (1985), Curiosity and Enlightenment: Collectors and Collections from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century (2007) and Animal Encounters (Reaktion, 2012).

Introduction: Human Engagement with the Animal World
    Environmental change: conditioning and consequences
    Animals as currency
    Insularity and interpenetration
    Urbanization and industrialization
    Cruelty, compassion and domestic pets
1. Ubiquitous Horse
    A horse-driven society
    The horse population
    Horsegear and stables
    Saddle horses
    Horses for Crown and country
    The carrying trade and the post
    Coaches and coach-horses
    The horse in the industrial age
    Horses for sport and leisure
    Mules and donkeys
2. The Art of Venery and its Adjuncts
    The hunt: privilege and exclusion since 1066
    The chase in the medieval period
    Hunting under the Tudors and Stuarts
    Early hunting literature
    Of hounds and horses
    The personnel of the hunt
    Weapons of the hunt
    Beasts of the forest, the chase and the warren
    Hawks and falcons
3. Urban and Rural Sports and Pastimes
    Persecution and protection of urban and rural animals
    The baiting of bulls, bears and other animals
    Badger-digging and badger-baiting
    Deer and hare coursing
    Cocks and cockfighting
    Homing and racing pigeons
    Wildfowling and bird-catching
    Fishing with trap and line
4. The Living Larder
    Provisioning the larder
    Doves or pigeons
    Husbandry and exploitation of swans
    Bees and bee-keeping
5. Animals on the Farm
    Conservative and radical practice in the countryside
    Ox versus horse
    Wagons and ploughs
    Eighteenth-century improvers
    Recording the age of improvement
    Animals on display
    Animal by-products
    Donkeys and mules

Bibliography and References
Photo Acknowledgements
Acts of Parliament