“Your horse won’t eat any oats, nor will he be bled until I get my revenge” threatens his lady Orgeuilleux de la Lande, making his displeasure evident by abusing the lady’s horse. Horses were vital agents in daily life throughout the medieval period, but with the advent of technology in the twentieth century, they have been somehow marginalized in academic studies. Recently, interest in equine history has surged, but there are still many issues waiting to be tackled by scholars.
In this fourth year of thematic horse sessions at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, we invite papers on the following themes:
Breeding, training, feeding and curing horses
Osteological study of horse remains
Equipment for ridden and working horses
Horse-related buildings and infrastructure (stables, roads, hippodromes, markets, etc.)
Horses in the East and West – regional peculiarities
Imaginary, fantastic and magical horses and equids, including unicorns, centaurs and grotesques, and their relation to real horses
Other equids and ridden animals (donkeys, mules, zebras, etc.)
If you would like to propose a theme that does not fit in the above categories, please contact the organizers.
Paper abstracts (up to 500 words) and short biographies (up to 100 words) are to be sent to Dr Anastasija Ropa (Anastasija.Ropa@lspa.lv) and Dr Timothy Dawson (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 31 August 2018.
Publication of selected papers is planned.
If you would like to be involved in organizing the sessions or editing or reviewing the publication, please contact the organizers (Anastasija.Ropa@lspa.lv, email@example.com).
In Horse Nations (2015), Peter Mitchell offers a wide-ranging synthesis of archaeological, ethnographic and material culture studies to describe the impact of horses in the “post-1492” world. Horses, reduced to Eurasia from their original evolutionary footprint, were then reintroduced by European efforts to colonize the Americas, Africa and Oceanasia. The rapid emergence of the “equestrian nomad”, like the Apache in North America and the Mapuche in Chile, demonstrates the dramatic transformations that horses could bring in just a short period of time.
Mitchell moves beyond the stereotypical image of the indigenous raider on horseback to explore the diverse range of responses to the expanding presence of the horse. Using critical post-colonial methodology, contact with the horse becomes a set of mutually entangling processes, rather than externally imposed or internally motivated change in the areas affected by European colonization. In collecting material culture evidence for dynamic processes of ethnogenesis that accompanied the adoption of the horse, Mitchell reviews nine distinct ecological regions and offers a four part typology: first, hunter-gatherer or mobile groups that became equestrian nomads, largely for big game hunting in the Prairie and Gran Chaco regions; second, semi-mobile pastoralists, using horses as accessories to other economic pursuits like herding, including the Navajo, Comanche and Australian aborigine; third, raiders and traders interested in the horse as an object for consumption, including the Great Basin Utes and South African Khoe; and fourth, sedentary and hierarchical groups that adopted horses for less obvious economic motives, most strikingly the Araucanians in the Southern Cone.
Mitchell, a specialist in South African archaeology of nomadism, ranges far afield in his proposal for the category of “horse nations” as a particular global phenomenon that emerged in the sixteenth through nineteenth century. Beyond the question of the horse itself, Mitchell aims to provoke a broader comparative examination of nomadism. Through this overview, Mitchell makes the case for gradations in the range of movement and social stratification used to identify characteristic cultural traits based on interaction with adoption of the horse in diverse regions, without distinguishing ‘equestrian nomads’ from pastoralist nomads, and its reflection on the degree of sophistication in indigenous culture groups.
Instead, Mitchell introduces the unpredictable role of “ontological relations” as an explanatory factor for the degree of adaptive flexible that made it possible to accommodate the horse. While not fully developed in this work, the anthropological concept of ontological relations determining human-animal relations moves beyond the functional or environmental determinism of older archaeological and anthropological studies of nomadic cultures. It nevertheless raises new areas for greater scrutiny about the distinctions between domestic and wild animals. In this respect, incorporation of zooarchaeological literature and research would substantially complement Mitchell’s survey.
Despite the global interest of this book, more attention is paid to the extant literature focused in the Americas, and makes evident the lacuna in other complementary regional literature, particularly in the African continent. One extensive barrier, within the field of archaeology, stands at the division between prehistoric archaeology and palentology and later historical and ethnohistorical uses of archaeology. A second barrier to comparative nomadic studies appears in the vast leap from early hunter-gatherer interactions with feral horses and the historical development of domesticated horse populations, making clear the need for a new synthesis about the place of nomadism in Eurasian developments. Thus, as an enormously expansive, although not yet exhaustive, survey of major secondary works and primary studies, Horse Nations enriches the potential engagement between archaeology, history and anthropology on the topic of the horse in human-animal studies. It points the way to more work to come.
 See debate in American anthropological literature about cultural change attributed to the horse (Wissler 1912; Roe, 1955) or pre-existing trends within recipient cultures (Palermo, 1989)
“There came into the world a blue-grey wolf….his wife was a fallow deer.”
The Secret History is part creation myth, part family history, part regional history. There is some debate as to when it was written. Christopher P. Atwood dates it to 1264, during the reign of Kublai Khan.* Both the dating and the use of this text is complicated by the fact that the only extant version is in Chinese characters from over a century later. There are many translations now available, but Paul Khan’s is the most popular introduction to this unique text. His is based on Francis Woodman Cleaves’ translation, which is available free online here. Equine historians, unsurprisingly, will find much of interest. Specialists in Mongol history will want to consult the original text, and likely also a modern equestrian fluent in the language; while tack, movement, and care all translate well, some terms (in particular coat colors) do not have firm analogs in English. For the non-specialist looking for summer reading or a view of a different type of horsekeeping and horsemanship, Khan’s version in an easy read.
*See Christopher P. Atwood, “The Date of the ‘Secret History of the Mongols’ Reconsidered,” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies, no. 37 (2007): 1–48.
The EHC would like to congratulate the newest doctor of equine history, Dr. Kathryn Renton. She earned her doctoral degree this month from the UCLA Department of History. Her dissertation was entitled “Breed, Race and Empire: Horse and Human in the Iberian World (1348-1619),” and is already changing how we think about colonial horses and horsekeeping. Dr. Renton is a founding member of our organization, and currently serves as treasurer. Her service to the EHC has been invaluable in developing features like this blog along with the upcoming Equine History Conference. Read Dr. Renton’s EHC profile here.
Erica Munkwitz American University (Washington, DC) PhD, British History, American University (2014) MA, European History, American University (2008) BA, History, Sweet Briar College (2002) BA, English/Creative Writing, Sweet Briar College (2002)
What got you in to history? horse history? I have ridden and trained in nearly all disciplines (hunter-jumper, equitation, cross-country, dressage, Western pleasure, Western reining and games, endurance, and yes, side-saddle), but I didn’t link my sporting interests with my academic research until my second year of grad school. I had initially applied to American University to study German-Russian relations after the Second World War, but the disastrous state of the necessary microfilm sources at the National Archives dictated that I quickly find another topic. In a very lucky break, we had just finished reading Linda Colley’s Britons in our European colloquium. She asserted that fox-hunting had been “confined almost exclusively to men,” concluding “in short, the invention of fox-hunting can be seen, as it was seen at the time, as another expression of the new, patriotic patrician machismo…” That line changed the course of my research and my life. Given this martial and masculine representation, what opportunities did women have to join in such sports during the long nineteenth century? How did they justify their involvement to partake in equestrianism before they took up other – arguably, more “feminine” and less demanding – sports like tennis and golf? How were traditional ideals of femininity and domesticity revolutionized by doing so, both in Britain and throughout the British Empire? What were the repercussions of their increased participation on women’s rights and personal emancipation before the First World War? These are the questions I worked to answer in my dissertation entitled “‘Straight Ahead and Over Everything’: Women and Equestrian Sports in Britain, 1772-1956.”
Who is your favorite historical horse? All the horses I’ve ridden, and all the ones I haven’t! I also love Whistlejacket, Joey and Topthorn from War Horse, and in film – Cisco (Dances with Wolves) and Denny (The Man from Snowy River).
What are you working on now? My book proposal is under consideration now and I hope to have exciting news soon. The book project, entitled “Riding to Freedom: Women, Horse Sports, and Liberation in Britain, 1772-1928,” is devoted to understanding how British women’s involvement in sidesaddle riding, fox-hunting, and polo during the nineteenth century transcended gender and class boundaries and enabled women to attain social equality well before they achieved political equality via the vote in 1918. By riding astride rather than sidesaddle by the late nineteenth century, I argue that female equestrians in Britain and the Empire revolutionized ideals of femininity well before bicyclists, suffragettes, and war workers, and also well before women in other European countries such as France and Germany. Stay tuned!
Anything else you’d like to add? See more about my academic journey in this article: “Horse-Sense and Sensibility,” in The International Journal of the History of Sport’s special issue on “Aspiration and Reflection: Sport Historians on Sport History.”
I will be presenting “Patrons of Pegasus: Women as Equestrian Entrepreneurs, 1880-1930,” at the Equine Cultures in Transition conference at Leeds Beckett University, June 19–21 2018.
I will also be presenting “‘Four Things Greater Than All Things Are:’ Women, Horses and Power in History” at the EHC inaugural conference in December 2018.
The deadline for the John H. Daniels Fellowship at the NSLM is fast approaching! Still on the fence about applying? Here is an overview of the fellowship and the Library to help you decide.
Deadline: June 15.
Letters: one. Response time: Early Fall (I heard back Sept. 2). Who is eligible: pretty much everyone. Concerned? Ask the staff. They’re fabulous. Dates: Up to two months in the following calendar year; you list two choices on your applications. Funding: Up to $2,000/month, paid biweekly while in residence. Housing: Provided. Travel: Plan on a cab, etc. from Dulles airport. 30 min.
Application Process The hardest part of the application is getting all the pieces into a single pdf. Save yourself the headache and look for an online tool that can combine multiple file formats into a single pdf. There are lots. Make sure you look through the catalog, but keep in mind that not everything has been entered. If there is a topic you are investigating that you think fits the NLSM, but you can’t pinpoint your sources in the catalog, ask the staff. Don’t forget to look through the art collections and archival finding aids.
Scheduling I ended up having a minor scheduling conflict, as my students’ final was scheduled much later than I’d expected. I had to arrive a day late, and since there was no one due to come in right after me, I was able to add that day at the end of my stay. I only applied for two weeks. I should have applied for a month! It’s worth checking the schedule and seeing what exhibitions and events are planned before deciding on your dates. There may be something you want to see! While I was there, I went to the “Coffee with the Curator” for the Andre Pater exhibit at the Museum.
The closest airport, as mention above, is Dulles. My flight came in at midnight, so Istayed the night in a hotel by the airport, and took a lyft down to Middleburg early the next morning. I was perhaps a bit excited, and arrived bright and very early before any of the staff. I strolled around the grounds a bit, exploring the various equine sculptures. The area is absolutely beautiful. The Library and Museum are two separate, neighboring buildings. The Chronicle of the Horse offices are nearby.
Living The little cottage where fellows stay is behind the Museum, and set slightly into the hillside. It is surprisingly private. There is a sitting room with a couch, desk, hardline internet connection, and a fabulous view: Audubon bird paintings adorn the walls next to windows looking out on birds chattering the the trees. The kitchen has a full stove as well as microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and fridge. Dishes are provided, and the cabinets accrue leftover dry goods from past fellows. There is a Safeway a few blocks away. I went shopping every few days, partly so I didn’t have to carry much back and partly just to stretch my legs. Towels are provided for the shower, and extra blankets and pillows for the bed. The mattress is a bit old, if you have room to bring a topper with you it might be worth it. The cable for the internet will (just barely) reach into the bedroom, which was great, since jet lagged as I was I definitely wanted a movie before bed. There is a cleaning service for the cottage, and I was told laundry is available in the Library building somewhere, though as I was a short stay I didn’t avail myself of it. The NSLM is also just a few blocks from the Middleburg Tack Exchange, which somehow I still haven’t been to.
Research The important stuff, right? I spent several days reading the Sporting Magazine from its initial publication through 1866 (being the period I’m researching). As first, I did read every equine or breeding article, and skim the rest, but once I had the rhythm of the publication I started just taking photos; invest in a good pdf scanner before you go! Still, I wish I’d had more time to just read through them. Even those couple of days changed the direction of my research. While many of the Sporting Magazines are available on googlebooks, they’re often misnumbered or otherwise mislabelled. Going through them in order was amazing. I also explored the open stacks (and found my nemesis),
and checked out a few of the books there to read in the evenings when the Library was closed. The Library itself has wifi, so it was easy to take notes, look things up, livetweet some of my reading, and have the catalog at my fingertips.
The bulk of my visit I spent downstairs, with the rare books and archive, which is not open to the public. This isn’t an option everyday, so I tried to save my general reading upstairs for days the archives were closed. The bulk of the rare books were 18th and 19th century, which suited me well, but earlier works are well represented. The archival papers are mostly 19th and 20th century, which wasn’t useful for me but I’m sure there is still plenty of work to be done with them. Again, and as with any research trip, when in doubt ask the staff. Even when not in doubt, ask the staff. They know answers to questions we don’t know to ask.
I am still finding new things in the scans I took while I was there.