#MemberMonday: Erica Munkwitz

Erica and Sam
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.” 

Erica and Perseus
Perseus, Household Cavalry Drum Horse

   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.

Contact me on Twitter @EricaMunkwitz

 

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#MemberMonday: Chelsea Shields-Más

chelsea
Chelsea Shields-Más

SUNY College at Old Westbury
PhD, History, University of York, UK (2014)
MA, Medieval Studies, University of York, UK (2010)
BA, Medieval Studies, Mount Holyoke College (2008)

What got you in to history? horse history?
   My love for history and horses has been intertwined for as long as I can remember. I’ve loved horses since about age 2… there seems to be no rhyme or reason for this passion (i.e. no one else in my family rides), and family members joke that “horses are in my blood.” At a young age I developed a love for the medieval period facilitated by reading early Irish, English and Norse myths and legends, learning about knights and medieval warfare and my dad bringing me on trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters in NYC.

Who is your favorite historical horse?
   Alexander the Great’s Bucephalus [Kat Boniface’s answer, too!]

What are you working on now?
   I’m currently working on finishing up a monograph on the reeve in late Anglo-Saxon England (under contract with Boydell & Brewer). In my study of the reeve as an estate manager, I have come across interesting sources on the horse and horse management in late Anglo-Saxon England, which is a project I am also currently researching.

Anything else you’d like to add?
   I’ve ridden since age 7 and have done dressage exclusively since about age 15. My love of and interest in dressage was in part sparked by reading Xenophon and learning about Classical and Medieval training of war horses.

Chelsea Shields-Más will be presenting “If Wishes were Horses: Building a Picture of Late Anglo-Saxon Equine Management and Care” at our inaugural conference.

#Shelfie Sunday: Horses, Oxen and Technological Innovation: The Use of Draught Animals in English Farming from 1066 to 1500

Horses, Oxen and Technological InnovationJohn Langdon, Horses, Oxen and Technological Innovation: The Use of Draught Animals in English Farming from 1066 to 1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).

Review by Jordan Claridge

Now more than thirty years old, John Langdon’s Horses, Oxen and Technological Innovation: The Use of Draught Animals in English Farming from 1066 to 1500, still stands as not only one of the most influential historical monographs about horses, but also as a broad window into the economy and society of medieval England.

Langdon’s foray into the world of medieval horses was not through any of the ‘usual’ channels, as he was neither an historian nor an equine enthusiast. Originally trained as a chemical engineer, Langdon abruptly changed careers in his late thirties, moved to England and tried his hand at writing novels. In the course of writing two books set in the Middle Ages, he developed a taste for research and enrolled in the history PhD program at the University of Birmingham. It was at this point that he discovered a significant gap in the historiography of the medieval English economy: scholars such as Lynn White Jr. had long argued for the theoretical advantages that working horses held over oxen, but this had yet to be tested on any scale with historical evidence. In addition, there was still a strong contingent of historians who claimed that the introduction of the horse to English agriculture was basically irrelevant. So, Langdon set out to basically count the numbers of horses and oxen in England from Domesday Book in 1086 to the dawn of the early modern period.

Langdon’s background as an engineer allowed him to tackle this question with a method relatively novel to the field of medieval history at the time. Most economic and social studies of the medieval period were focused relatively narrowly in time and/or space. Some studies would look at a single manor over a long period of time, others would focus on a broader region, or even the whole country, but at a single point, like the Norman invasion in 1066 or the Black Death in 1348. Langdon endeavoured to take a national data sample that covered as much of medieval England as possible and to do this for most of the Middle Ages. Looking back on this from 2018, the amount of work required to assemble his data sample is impressive. This was before the technological advents of digital photography or even Excel spreadsheets. Langdon travelled around the country painstakingly reading medieval Latin manuscripts and tabulating the numbers of horses and oxen by hand.

The results were impressive. Langdon looked closely at the numbers of oxen and horses employed on both demesnes (the lord’s own farm with the manor, as opposed to the lands allocated to his or her peasant tenants) and peasant farms in medieval England. He found that, between the Domesday survey of 1086 and the end of his study in 1500, horses had largely superseded oxen as the choice for animal power both on the roads (as cart animals) and in the fields (as plough beasts). The proportion of working horses increased from about 30 percent in 1086 to over sixty percent by 1500. So, before 1200, oxen were the dominant work animals, and source of kinetic energy, on both farms and roads in England. By the sixteenth century, however, horses had achieved almost total ubiquity in the world of work animals. This had critical implications for the economy of medieval England, as the speed advantage of horses over oxen allowed more work to be done in less time. Horses offered significant premiums over oxen in terms of both speed and power which, in turn, had critical implications for agricultural production, transport and market transactions. The introduction of working horses allowed goods to be transported with greater efficiency while also helping improve agricultural output through increasing the speed at which essential tasks such as ploughing and harrowing could be completed. Improvement across all of these areas, facilitated by the introduction of working horses, was a key ingredient of England’s economic development.

Langdon also found that the change from oxen to horses was not uniform. Especially in the case of plough animals, for example, Norfolk, the Chiltern Hills and eastern Kent embraced all-horse plough teams earlier than any other part of the country. Also, while horses were increasingly employed in tandem with oxen in the midlands and the home counties over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, many demesnes, especially in the West and North, never made the change and stuck exclusively with oxen for plough work. His long durée approach allows readers to appreciate how the evolving dynamic between horses and oxen existed not in a vacuum, but as one consideration that depended greatly on regional topographies, managerial mentalities and a host of other variables.

As Joan Thirsk had done before him, Langdon likened the medieval horse trade to the more modern car trade; with horses available at almost any price point. With this wide range in prices, cheap draught animals were made available to peasants just as the lower-end used car market does for lower-income people today. This led to another key finding: in medieval England, horses were very much a peasants’ animal. While horses had been expensive and prestigious beasts in the Anglo Saxon world, the taboo of eating horse flesh in England meant that older horses, perhaps nearing the end of their productive working lives, had very little market value. As they could not be fattened and sold for meat, an older horse was basically only worth the few pennies that could be fetched for its hide. However, for less demanding work on a small peasant farm, an older horse could be bought for little money and used for a number of years. The wide adoption of horse power by peasants did much to increase the area in which goods could be both bought and sold, allowing individuals access to previously inaccessible markets and thereby increasing the integration of previously disparate locales.

Alongside water and wind power, working animals were one of three essential sources of energy in the medieval economy. By understanding how England was furnished with this power, Langdon helped unlock key insights into how the medieval economy was able to grow during the crucial period of England’s, and indeed Europe’s, demographic and economic development from ca. 1250 to ca. 1350.

Join the EHC social media team!

Meyers_b12_s0947b
Join our herd!

   The Equine History Collective is looking for a social media liaison to assist with Twitter, Instagram, and EquineHistory.org. Social media experience is a must, experience with wordpress.com and wordpress.org a plus. This is a chance to be involved in the growing field of equine history, and interact with both scholars and the public. You do not need to be an equine historian to apply, but some familiarity with equine history is needed.  

   Duties would include coordinating with potential writers for blogposts, and editing and sharing engaging content across platforms, including EquineHistory.org, Twitter, and Instagram. Our goal is to promote community, share exciting research trends, and curate news of interest to EHC members and equine history fans.

   This is a volunteer position, and as such includes some flexibility, but communication with the EHC board is critical.

For more information, email EquineHistory@gmail.com

T-Shirts are back!

We are raising funds for filing 501(c)3 status and for the EHC Conference travel fund. T-shirts are now available!

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If you missed the popular “heads” design, featuring zebra, horse, and donkey heads, that has been relaunched. Order here.

 

 

Screen Shot 2018-05-18 at 9.58.42 AM   New this time is a Lascaux design, which is also available as a sweatshirt or hoodie. Order here. Multiple cuts & colors available on both.

Direct donations can be made here. Please feel free to share!

Idaho PTV’s “Taking the Reins” to Feature Horsewoman of the American West

Kittie Wilkins on Sidesaddle (Mountain Home Historical Museum) (300 dpi) copy
Post by Philip A. Homan

Photo of Kittie Wilkins courtesy of Mountain Home Historical Museum, Mountain Home, ID

 

   The second episode in Idaho Public Television’s new Idaho Experience series will feature Kittie Wilkins, the Horse Queen of Idaho, one of the most well-known horsewomen in the late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century United States.

   The boss of the Wilkins Horse Company, headquartered at the Diamond Ranch in the Bruneau Valley of Owyhee County, Idaho, Wilkins ran 10,000 horses, all branded with her famous Diamond brand. The company’s herd was said by the newspapers to be the largest owned by one family in the American West.

   According to the newspapers, the “Queen of Diamonds,” as Wilkins was also known, was the only woman at the turn of the twentieth century whose sole occupation was horse dealing. In fact, she sold horses by the trainloads. From 1887 to 1902, she traveled each year to the stockyards of the Midwest, helping to supply America’s horsepower. Newspapers along the Union Pacific announced her arrival with headlines like “The Only One of Her Kind.”

   However, Wilkins was no Calamity Jane. Trained as a classical pianist at the first college west of the Mississippi to give the baccalaureate to women, she told the newspapers, “Next to petting my favorite horses, I like nothing better than to sit down at my piano and let my fingers drift along the keys ….” Indeed, she was an ambassador not only of the American West but also of Western American womanhood. Solidly Victorian, she subscribed to many of the tenets of the so-called Cult of True Womanhood. Nevertheless, as not only a horse dealer but also a commercial traveler, she was successful as a woman in a profession that not only took her out of the home and into the marketplace for months at a time but that had also helped to define American manhood at the turn of the twentieth century.

   Wilkins also made what was said by the newspapers to be the largest sale of horses in the West. In 1900, she sold 8,000 head in a single sale to be shipped by the British Army Remount Department from New Orleans for the South African War, 1899-1902. According to statistics, Wilkins supplied over seven percent of all American horses sent to South Africa for the war.

   “Taking the Reins” will premiere on IdahoPTV on Thursday, May 24, at 8:30 pm MDT, and will repeat on Sunday, May 27, at 7:30 pm MDT. The episode will be available for free streaming online approximately May 29.