Seeking Co-Panelists for HSS 2018 Session on Animals, the Environment, and Science

     Kathleen Sullivan Thomas is seeking three co-panelists for a session on animals, the environment, and science at HSS 2018 in Seattle. My own dissertation work investigates the interactions between wild animal and domestic bodies in mid-20th-century America through the lens of veterinary medicine and zoonotic disease, though it necessarily tangles with the problems of “wild” and “domestic” as classifications. Potential participants will ideally have a paper that touches on all three themes (animals, environment, science), but time and place need not be homogenous, and there is some flexibility within the themes. This panel would seek to pose new ideas about how animals complicate our human categories, encouraging other scholars to think about the ways science not only used animals, but constructed a human world around those bodies. Papers that explore animal agency are especially welcome, and possible topics include (but certainly are not limited to): veterinary medicine, wildlife science, experimentation, animal activism, animal work, evolutionary science, agriculture, and wilderness.

    Interested parties should contact Kathleen Sullivan Thomas by April 1 at with a brief description of your work, and how you see your project contributing to the larger goal of the panel.


Call for Papers! Equine History Conference

IMG_0027   The Equine History Collective (EHC) invites submissions for individual presentations for its first annual conference, to take place Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 at Cal Poly Pomona, in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library. Submissions may investigate any equine in the past,kellogg including donkeys, mules, zebras and onagers. The theme of the conference is “Why Equine History Matters,” meant to show the relevance of equine history for historical studies. We therefore encourage papers that illustrate how any facet of equine history, broadly or narrowly conceived, helps to illuminate, interpret, and contextualize the past. The conference will conclude with a visit to the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center’s Sunday Show.

lutely.jpg   The EHC’s purpose is to foster equine history research and its dissemination, and promote collaboration between equine historians in all disciplines. As such, we encourage submissions from anyone who researches equine history. This includes, but is not limited to, scholars in other disciplines other than history, like agriculture, archaeology, art history, and literature, and researchers in non-academic settings, such as public historians and independent scholars. Submissions from scholars at any career stage are welcome. Please understand that space may be limited for this inaugural conference, but we expect the number of presentation spots available to grow in future years.IMG_1859

   The deadline for submission is 15 April 2018. Please send abstracts (250 words or less) and a one-page CV to The Program Committee will notify all those who submitted proposals of its decision by the end of May. Travel funds may be available for speakers.  Questions? Contact us.

#ShelfieSunday: The Comanche Empire

comempThe Comanche Empire. By Pekka Hämäläinen. The Lamar Series in Western History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.

Review by Christopher Valesey

    Winner of twelve book awards, Comanche Empire is a landmark of ethnohistorical scholarship. Pekka Hämäläinen challenges more typical narratives of European imperialism that feature the rapid dissolution of indigenous civilizations by drawing attention to the rise and fall of the so-called Comanche Empire in the modern American Southwest from roughly 1750 to 1850. Despite being surrounded by Spanish, French, and Anglo-American domains, Hämäläinen argues that “European imperialism not only stalled in the face of indigenous resistance, it was eclipsed by indigenous imperialism” (2). This Comanche-style imperialism differed from Euro-Americans in that Comanches sought coexistence, control, and exploitation rather than conquest and colonization (4).

    Ethnohistorical research is often hamstrung by a dearth of sources written by the indigenous group under study. While this is true for Comanche Empire, Hämäläinen offers an impressive analysis of Spanish, French, Mexican, and Anglo-American sources like government reports, captivity narratives, travelers’ journals, and traders’ accounts. Although Euro-American sources accentuate the military and economic aspects of the Comanche Empire rather than the cultural, they allow Hämäläinen to pay close attention to the implications of various events like the Bourbon Reforms, the French and Indian Wars, and the Mexican-American War. Taken together, Hämäläinen structures the book primarily chronologically to examine the lifespan of the Comanche Empire, beginning with Comanches’ alliance with Utes in the early eighteenth century and concluding with the empire’s collapse soon after the American Civil War.

     Perhaps the most striking feature of the Comanche Empire was their adaptive use of horses, particularly the Spanish-introduced Barbs that descended from North Africa and thrived in the southern plains. Indeed, tying in previous publications in Western Historical Quarterly and the Journal of American History, Hämäläinen describes Comanches’ adoption of horses as an “equine revolution” (347). Equestrianism dramatically altered Comanche hunting, warfare, and transportation, exponentially expanding their world and the speed in which they could travel through it. With horses, Comanches transformed their entire economy to center around bison hunting and horse herding.  Horses’ voracious appetite for the abundant buffalo and grana grasses not only allowed the equine and Comanche populations to skyrocket, but in Hämäläinen’s words, allowed Comanches to “exploit the vast reserves of bioenergy stored in the plains’ bison herds more thoroughly than any of their competitors” (66). Comanches’ use of horses was so effective that nearby plains tribes had no choice but to become mounted if they wanted to avoid being marginalized by Comanches (356). Ironically, the success of Comanche equestrianism also contributed to the fall of the empire: the rapidly declining bison population in the mid-nineteenth century, exacerbated by Euro-American hunting, appears to have crippled Comanches’ military and economic hegemony more than any armed conflict with Euro-Americans.

     In addition to the military, demographic, and economic ramifications of horses, Comanches established a distinct culture of equestrianism with influences on wealth, social status, and gender. They selectively bred horses to optimize their endurance, speed, size, and even color. According to Hämäläinen, Comanches recognized at least seventeen different types of horses based solely on their color (246). The wealth of individual or families of Comanches could be determined by the number of horses they owned as private property. The average Comanche family owned twenty to thirty horses, but the most affluent elites could own hundreds (260). While teenage boys worked most closely with the horses on a daily basis, women participated in horse herding in addition to their responsibilities for childrearing, meat processing, the tanning of hides, and a range of household duties. Horses constituted a form of social currency that provided men with the means of gift-giving in exchange for wives, a massive advantage for the wealthy in a polygynist society. A lack of horses prevented young men from acquiring wives, and it also limited their access to other activities like trade. Without a horse, men were required to borrow them from peers, indebting them to a portion of the spoils of war or any wealth they would receive. Elites, on the other hand, could use their horses to make investments in more slaves and wives, in turn generating surplus commodities and food.

     As any effective work of scholarship should, Comanche Empire raises nearly as many questions as it answers. Although this reader is convinced by the author’s usage of “empire,” some of the sharpest criticisms of the book revolve around whether or not Comanches established one. These discussions may be the most exciting contribution of the book. One productive and related question is the extent to which Comanches’ created an empire not only like Euro-Americans, but like other well-known indigenous empires like the Mexica in Central Mexico and Inca in Peru. This is not a critique of the book, but just the opposite: Comanche Empire’s ability to challenge historiographical trends and generate debate secures its spot in graduate class syllabi and the bookshelves of all ethnohistorians.

#ShelfieSunday: The Warhorse in the Modern Era: The Boer War to the Beginning of the Second Millennium

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Review by Jane Flynn

Read her blog here.

Hyland A., The Warhorse in the Modern Era: The Boer War to the Beginning of the Second Millennium, Black Tent Publications, Stockton on Tees, 2010.

     Ann Hyland’s book The WarHorse in the Modern Era: The Boer War to the Second Millennium is the third and last in a series that together cover the role of horses in military history from the Medieval period to the present century. Hyland is a prolific author and has published on the horse in the Ancient World, on Quarter Horses and on, in Foal to Five Years, the development and training of young horses. Strangely, however, her work on war horses seems to have gone largely unnoticed, despite growing public and scholarly interest in human-animal interactions.

     In The WarHorse in the Modern Era Hyland examines the tumultuous final instalment in the horse’s long association with war. The War Horse in the Modern Era begins with the The Boer War campaign of 1899-1902. She illustrates why the South African campaign proved a turning point in how military horses were supplied and managed. The book follows a logical progression, continuing by covering the use of horses (and mules) in The First World War and into and beyond the Second World War; again comprehensively covering everything from purchase and supply, to veterinary care, transportation, equipment and feeding. Each chapter is divided into manageable and easily-navigated sub-sections.

     A great strength of Hyland’s book is that it has been written by a horse person for horse people. It would also be of interest to military historians and animal-studies scholars. In this sense it is a very refreshing read; successfully avoiding the sentimentality that has so often undermined serious consideration of the horse in history. The War Horse in the Modern Era is a book packed with useful information about every aspect of the war horse’s utilisation and has clearly been very thoroughly researched. It is, however, a book that rarely ventures into analysis. It is informative, but it does not enter into discussion and primary sources can at times feel as though much more could have been made of them. This is a shame, as on the rare occasions Hyland does enter into debate her writing is perhaps at its best. For example, on the subject of how historians have sorely neglected the important part played by horses during The Great War:

     Many historians seem to have written the cavalry off without giving credence to the effectiveness it often showed, and the sacrifices the horses made. How many writers give accolades to the artillery, but failure to mention that … it was the horse that enabled it to be positioned effectively. (p.109.)

     Similarly, and although a glossary of terms is given, this is a book that often assumes its readers have a comprehensive equestrian vocabulary upon which to draw. That being said, it is rare that writing on horses in war has gone into this sort of depth and for that reason The War Horse in the Modern Era is an admirable, and welcome, addition to the genre.

Editors’ Note: This review was originally going to run in November, when we featured other books on horses in warfare. However, unlike Hyland’s Medieval works, this book proved remarkably difficult to find! We suspect The War Horse in the Modern Era: Breeder to Battlefield, 1600 to 1865 will be likewise difficult. If you have a copy and you’d like to review it, or lend it to a reviewer, let us know!


Save the Date! First EHC Conference Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2018

Announcing the Equine History Conference!
Save the date: Fri. Nov. 30 – Sun Dec. 2, 2018
Organized by the Equine History Collective, the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library and the Kellogg Arabian Horse Center at Cal Poly Pomona

Calling all equine historians… We are delighted to announce the first annual conference and meeting of the Equine History Collective, in generous partnership with theW. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library  and Kellogg Arabian Center. The three-day conference will be held at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library  on the campus of Cal Poly Pomona. Tours of the library and exhibits will be scheduled during the conference. Researchers are welcome and encouraged to contact the library archivists about making use of their special collections during their stay in Pomona. The conference will conclude with the traditional Sunday Arabian Show at the Kellogg Arabian Center.  Our official call for papers will follow!


News from ASEH


     The ASEH annual conference will be in Riverside, CA, March 14-18. There are a number of equine and animal presentations of interest. In addition, there will be a pre-ASEH twitter conference, sponsored by NiCHE, on March 8th & 9th. Submissions are due Feb. 21.

Persistence and Power: The Cultural, Symbolic, and Environmental Role of
Horses and Burros in Survivance in the American West
Lindsay Marshall, University of Oklahoma, “I’ve Been a Horse All My Life”: The
Persistence and Adaptability of Comanche Horse Culture in the Twentieth Century
Abbie Harlow, Arizona State University, “The Burro Evil”: The Eradication of Feral
Burros in Grand Canyon National Park
Kerri Keller Clement, University of Colorado-Boulder, Game of Horsepower: Robert
Yellowtail, Crow Horses, and Native American Power during the 1930s

Lightning Talks
Katrin Boniface, University of California-Riverside, Distributive Preservation & Heritage Livestock

Environment, Power, and Injustice in Southern African Histories
Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University-South Africa, The Animal in the Mirror – Baboons and the Politics of Power

Managing the Health of People and Animals
Brian Tyrrell, University of California-Santa Barbara, Breeding the Bluegrass: A Political
Ecology of Kentucky’s Bluegrass Region

Elusive Beasts: Affective Encounters and the Politics of Representation
Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University-South Africa, The Others – Animal Kinship and the Strangeness of Familiarity


#MemberMonday: Katherine Mooney

mooneyKatherine Mooney

History PhD, Yale University
History MPhil, Yale University
History MA, Yale University
American Studies BA, Amherst College, Summa cum laude

Author of the NASSH award-winning Race Horse Men
Read the EHC review of Race Horse Men here

What got you in to history? In to equine history?
     I can’t even remember when I figured out that I wanted to do something that involved history. And I’ve been a horse person for even longer than that– it’s my mother’s fault, since she and her sisters put me on a horse basically before I could walk. I was in my first year of a PhD program in history and looking for something to read that was NOT related to my academic life, and I picked up Ed Hotaling’s book on black jockeys. The first thing I noticed was that the guys in his sources talked about horses the same way people I’d grown up with had, and I realized that equine history was a thing I could do. It was probably the best day of my professional life.

Who is your favorite historical horse?
     Too many to have a real favorite. But I really would have liked to see Lexington and Lecomte in their races in the 1850s.

What are you working on right now?
     I’m working on a shorter study about the projection of the qualities of human females on mares and how that’s affected how they’ve been perceived by both racing professionals and fans. So there’s everything in there–from theory about how women relate to horses to critical readings of Facebook and Any suggestions welcome!

Read Katherine Mooney’s review of Mr. Darley’s Arabian here.