#MemberMonday: Mike Huggins

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Mike Huggins
University of Cumbria

Ph. D., Lancaster University, 1999
Diploma in Reading Studies, Open University, 1988
Diploma in Management Studies, CNAA, 1986
MA, CNAA, 1983
Diploma in Religious Studies, Cambridge University, 1976
BA (Hons), Open University, 1975 (first class)
Certificate in Mathematics, National Extension College, 1969
Cert Ed, Durham, 1967

What got you in to history? horse history?
I initially taught in primary schools, specializing in reading, and later worked in teacher training and school inspection. But I did a doctorate on the nineteenth-century history of British horse racing to fill my time during the school holidays, and that motivated me to move into the academic world to teach leisure history.
Rather like Saul of Tarsus my conversion to horse history took a long time. I’ve never ridden a horse. Though amongst my many books are three on British racing’s history, covering the period from 1660 to 1939, including my most recent on the long eighteenth century, they’ve focused on cultural, social, economic and political themes and the debates about betting, and did not foreground the horses anywhere near as much as I should have. But I’m belatedly giving it more thought now.

Who is your favorite historical horse?Statue of Kincsem
Kincsem, the thoroughbred mare foaled in Hungary in 1874, is a favourite of mine, not least since mares can be overlooked. She won 54 races from 54 starts, many of them high standard, on racetracks across Europe, and later through her offspring influenced the breed.

What are you working on now?
I am currently exploring the cultural transfer and knowledge circulation of thoroughbred breeding and racing between Britain and Europe between 1700 and 1880.

 

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#ShelfieSunday: Horse Nations

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Horse Nations, by Peter Mitchell, 2015. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Review by Kathryn Renton

   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.[1] 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.[2]

   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.[3] 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.

[1] 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)

[2] Thomas Barfield, 2015

[3] Philippe Descola 2013, Tim Ingold 2000

#SourceSaturday: The Secret History of the Mongols

“There came into the world a blue-grey wolf….his wife was a fallow deer.”

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    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.

#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.

#MemberMonday: Holly Kruse

roscoe

Holly Kruse

Ph.D., Communication
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Post-graduate Certificate, Equine Business
University of Louisville

B.A., Political Science & History
University of Iowa

 

What got you into history, and into equine history?

   I’ve always liked history, and as an undergraduate political science major at the University of Iowa, I needed to have an outside area to supplement my major. I chose history, and I ended up taking so many history classes that I ended up adding a history major to my political science major. That’s when I first read work by the Annales historians: Montaillou by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie made a big impression on me.

   I went to the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign for my doctorate in media studies, and even before that, I was researching and writing about social histories of communication technologies. I published a journal article on the “domestication” of the phonograph in the U.S. in the early twentieth century, and more recently I’ve published research on the pneumatic tube as a nineteenth century (and beyond) communication technology. History is a central element in my research.Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 10.04.29 AM

   My interest in equine history comes from my lifelong horse-racing fandom and love of horses. Several years ago I decided to take a break from my academic teaching career to earn my post-graduate certificate in the Equine Industry Program at the University of Louisville. It was a time when the prototype for TVG had been launched and when legal online betting on horse racing was getting started, so a lot was happening with newmedia and horse racing. I began not only researching current developments, but also histories of technologies related to horse racing like tote machines and remote wagering. Those histories were central to my book on horse racing technologies, Off-Track and Online: The Networked Spaces of Horse Racing (The MIT Press, 2016).

Who is your favorite historical horse?

affirmed   My favorite historical horse is 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed. Although as a young kid in the 1970s I already watched and loved horse racing, Affirmed was the horse who made me passionate about it. It probably helped that my sister was an Alydar fan. I finally got to meet Affirmed in the summer of 2000, several months before he died.

 What are you working on right now?

   I just finished writing a chapter on horse racing, media, and social class to a forthcoming Routledge collection on media and social class. Right now I’m working on a book on gender and technology for Polity Press. It’s meant to be a book that can be used in any upper-level undergraduate gender and technology class. I’m writing the book because I can never find a good basic book – one free of a lot of higher level cultural theory – to use in my gender and technology class. I plan to slip in plenty of equine-related technologies, including sidesaddle. I’ve presented my research on girls, hobbyhorse competitions, and social media, and I plan to include that in the book as well.

#ShelfieSunday: Kingdom of the Workhorse

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Kingdom of the Workhorse by A.J.Dampier
Countryside Publications, 1987
ISBN 0 86157 226 2

Review by Miriam Bibby

 

   This splendid account of the lives of working horses in and around the city of Manchester at its 19th century zenith, when it was the “workshop of the world”, home to the greatest manufactories in Britain, is one of my favorite books.

   A.J. (Tony) Dampier was from north west England and knew his subject both from his own research and from contact with the horsemen of the region from the middle of the 20th century until his sad death in 2011. It’s therefore largely, though not exclusively, based on local history and oral traditions. Arguably it’s the type of history of which we need more, because all too often the stories of working people and animals are not recorded and then they simply disappear. Frequently the only histories we have are those created after the theme has been viewed through a middle-class lens and dissected for academic purposes.  This, however, is working class history recorded by a local man with an in-depth knowledge of and passion for horses, and who had extensive, practical equine and equestrian experience himself.

   There are limitations to the book, however. Dampier’s broader brush strokes relating to early history are unconvincing: “No doubt these ‘dark Phaenicians’ horses were of Arabian origin” (11); “Then came the terrible, cruel Vikings, their contribution to our story is minimal, being a force of destruction rather than construction” (5). In fact, the Norse contribution to the north and its equine history is becoming better known and it’s increasingly looking like a substantial one, not just linguistically but also in terms of horse breeding and exchange. Dampier himself points out that the Norse derived “Rossendale” in Lancashire is the “Valley of Horses”.

   Away from the general though, Dampier is compelling. He understands the connectedness of early modern infrastructure, commerce, settlement, place names and language in the region in a way that’s both instinctive because it’s an embedded part of his own heritage, and academic, because he acquired local research library-based facts about the working horses of Manchester and the surrounding dales.

   This is revealed not just in the text but also in an excellent choice of outstanding images, such as the unidentified horse-drawn mass funeral in Manchester, ca. 1900, on page 25. We can only speculate on whether this reflects a local mining or industrial disaster, a family tragedy or an outbreak of disease. One local “Black Master” (director of horse-drawn funerals), John Greenwood, appears to have specialized in ensuring the working class had respectable funerals, for his advert in the Manchester Guardian in 1860 read: “John Greenwood begs respectfully to intimate that, in order to meet the requirements of the working classes, he has always for hire neat one horse hearses and coaches, terms (inc. coachman) 7/6d. each” (77).

   That’s another of the great strengths of the book – the attention to detail, a boon for those of us who like the facts of what things cost, how they were obtained and how ordinary folk lived. There’s plenty of detail about individual characters, such as Ailse O’ Fussers, the owner of Jerry, probably  “the last commercial pack horse in Great Britain.” (Actually a donkey, p. 7) Ailse (also known as Alice Hartley) was a commercial carrier, and her team of “gals” (Galloway ponies, though the term was probably being loosely applied to type and function rather than a “breed” here) carried lime across the moors to Rochdale until her death in 1879. “In build she was short and stout, and she wore over her petticoats a male’s topcoat. A ‘Jim-crow’ hat was fastened securely on her head by a handkerchief over the top of her hat and tied under her chin. She carried a long stick in the style of a shepherd, and presented more the appearance of a man than a woman. Yet she had a lover, named Thomas Walton, a young farmer…” (William Roberts, quoted on p. 15)

   Pack horse trains continued to be used across the Pennines, from Durham and Westmorland in the north, to Derbyshire in the south, until the late 19th century and even, in some cases, possibly into the 20th. However, millennia of pack horse use were mostly brought to an abrupt end by the arrival of steam and it was now in the great cities and on ploughland that working horses were to find a place.

   In and around the streets of Manchester, Dampier introduces us to characters both equine and human; Dick Dalby, head horseman of the Prestwich Co-op stables, for instance, who taught all his horses to go on the ‘Pee Patch’ before they came into their stables after work – they had to pee before tea; Joe Bumper, the coal carrier from Rochdale who brought two poor horses to the local smith/farrier/vet and asked him to make one good one out of them only to be disappointed to discover that the “one good one” that the compassionate farrier “made” for him had a wall-eye, which Bumper “conna abide” (35).

   We learn about the secretly brutal methods of “horse whisperers” and the visit of the more enlightened (in Dampier’s view) Solomon Rarey to Manchester. We discover why a monopoly on the horse-drawn omnibuses in Manchester, created by the amalgamation of several companies in the late 19th century, was bad for passengers but good for horses. We hear of the clever horse who taught himself to use the metal curbs on the edges of pavements as a brake, and the well-trained horse who stopped when a police officer held up his hand, even though his driver was asleep!

   Dampier explains why the trandem was used so widely in Manchester that it came to be known as a “Manchester Team” and why all newspaper delivery horses in Manchester were referred to as “Chron. Horses.” Plus, why well-meaning ideas often have unintended consequences. The horse troughs brought in by named donors at locations throughout the city were often key points for the spread of equine epidemics and “many transport companies forbade their drivers to stop at the troughs for fear of infecting their horses” (50).

   Some working horses were more fortunate than others, and the horses of the monopoly Manchester Carriage Company Ltd. in 1865 were “stabled in conditions approaching those that accommodated the pampered private horses. Large, well-ventilated stable blocks were constructed where the animals’ every comfort was considered. The usual dirt floors that had been expected to absorb any moisture and urine were replaced by blue brick floors with good drainage, high ceilings and plentiful windows all contributing to the sweet atmosphere” (49).

   They were the lucky ones. Where hard-nosed commercial demands prevailed, it could be a different story, driving the undercurrent of violence, superstition and chicanery that was never very far from horse trading. “Mugs” were set up by “horse for sale” adverts for in the Manchester Chronicle and Evening News, “using terms such as ‘Property of a gentleman going abroad’ or ‘Lady in reduced circumstances’. All horses were ‘regretfully for sale’ and ‘To good home only.’” (Both these last phrases are still in daily use on Facebook, with the usual addition of “through no fault of his or her own.”) The mugs, inevitably, ended out of pocket and the advertiser nowhere to be seen.

   Whether it’s describing travelling in the “rumble-tumble” (a large basket on the back of coaches that was supposed to hold luggage, but frequently carried unfortunate passengers desperate to travel), or describing the underhand methods used by coach companies to get round the “no galloping” rule, Dampier is always lively and readable. Like Anthony Dent, he entertains and carries the reader along, and as with Dent the reader is left wondering “Where did he get that?”, frustrated sometimes by the lack of references for follow-up purposes. It wasn’t written as an academic text but to record local stories and memories. Nonetheless, I believe that this is an essential source book for anyone with an interest in the working horses of 19th century industrial Britain.

   It was clearly a labour of love for Tony Dampier, who also gave a home to Major, the last working horse on the streets of Manchester, for his final years. For this reason more than any other, Tony Dampier is a personal hero of mine and, to coin a phrase from Anthony Dent I think this is an outstanding book, “but I am prejudiced, so let it pass.” Dampier was a hero I never met; for though he wrote some articles for a magazine that I edited in the 1990s we didn’t have the opportunity to meet and talk, something that is of lasting regret to me. So, contact the knowledgeable while they’re alive; make the most of their experiences before it’s too late. And enjoy one of the most interesting books ever written about working horses.

#ShelfieSunday: ‘A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse’: Equine Medicine in Early Modern England

Louise Hill Curth, ‘A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse’: Equine Medicine in Early Modern England (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

'A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse'Review by Janice Gunther Martin

Louise Hill Curth’s ‘A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse’: Equine Medicine in Early Modern England is the first modern study in English of early modern equine medicine. It follows from Curth’s earlier scholarship examining early modern veterinary medicine in general.She applies current methodologies in the history of medicine to her subject; in particular, instead of dismissing past medical ideas and practices as barbaric and ignorant, she seeks to understand them on their own terms. Though the ideas and practices in this book might be unfamiliar to those outside the fields of the history of science and medicine, the clarity of writing makes the material accessible and interesting to non-specialists.

The book begins with an overview of ancient and medieval equine medicine before turning to the structure of equine medical practice in early modern England. Medical historians sometimes apply the term “medical marketplace” to describe the multiplicity of healing options available to people in this period. Curth extended the concept to animal healing in a 2002 article in which she coined the term “veterinary marketplace,” which she continues to use here.2 She accordingly explores the different people charged with equine upkeep and healing, including members of the London Company of Farriers, horse-leeches, and servants. The book’s main chronological scope ends with the institutionalization of veterinary education in England with the founding of the Royal Veterinary College in 1791.

Her exploration of early modern medicine on its own terms is evident in the book’s middle chapters on medical beliefs and practices. Like other recent scholars, she attends to the connections between astrology and medicine in this period and the logic thereof. Due to the importance of the “non-naturals” for preventing ailments in early modern medical theory, she explains how these factors applied to advice about horses. These included issues like air (by extension, the general environment), diet, and exercise. The book also provides an overview of the diagnosis and treatment of ailments, including pharmaceutical remedies and surgery. It concludes with two chapters on the dissemination of equine medical information through oral, manuscript, and printed means.

Curth writes that her purpose is to “open up a new area of academic interest and study” in the “virtually unexplored area” of the history of early modern veterinary medicine (p. 6). Indeed, the book contains many fascinating details about past equine medical care, such as advice about stable construction, the commercialization of equine medications, and the connections between bloodletting and astrology. It accordingly prompts many questions for further research, facilitated by Curth’s clarity regarding her source base. For instance, the seventh chapter “Oral and Manuscript Culture” includes summaries of household manuscript collections containing horse remedies digitized by the Wellcome Library. She offers some comparisons between these household books and printed remedies; additional research using such manuscript evidence will hopefully provide more clues about the most common equine ailments, the cures used in practice, and their relationship to treatments in printed sources.

In addition, the book invites further investigation about the similarities and differences between human and equine ailments and treatments in this period, especially since Curth relates her work to the “One Medicine” movement (more recently coined “One Health”). This initiative seeks to promote collaboration between researchers across medical and ecological disciplines, in part to better understand the relationship between human and animal health and the environment. Historians like Curth have shown that past medical cultures (like that of early modern England) did not exhibit as sharp a divide between human and animal medicine as exists today, and operated with a more holistic concept of medicine.

Curth’s book is a helpful and engaging overview of early modern English equine care for specialists and non-specialists alike, and provides an important framework and foundation for further research.

1 See especially Louise Hill Curth, The Care of Brute Beasts: A Social and Cultural Study of Veterinary Medicine in Early Modern England (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

Curth, “The Care of the Brute Beast: Animals and the Seventeenth-Century Medical Market-place,” Social History of Medicine 15, no. 3 (December 2002): 375-392. https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/15.3.375.