#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.

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#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.

Equine History T-Shirts are here!

   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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   For the “heads” design, featuring zebra, horse, and donkey heads, order here: https://www.bonfire.com/ehc-equine-heads/ 

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   For the #AndBurros shirt (courtesy of Abbie Harlow, ASU) order here:  https://www.bonfire.com/andburros/ 

Multiple cuts & colors available on both.

   Direct donations can be made here: https://squareup.com/store/equine-history-collective… Please feel free to share!

#SourceSaturday: Recent English-Language Equine Veterinary Histories

By Janice Gunther Martin

During the month of April, the Equine History Collective will be featuring posts related to the history of veterinary medicine. If you are interested in submitting a book review, let us know at equinehistory@gmail.com.

The bibliography below lists recent histories of veterinary medicine in English, with a focus on works at least partially devoted to equids. The list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have found certain books or articles to be especially helpful (including those in other languages), please add your comments below!

Adams, J. N. Pelagonius and Latin Veterinary Terminology in the Roman Empire. Leiden: Brill, 1995.

Alkhateeb Shehada, Housni. “Donkeys and Mules in Arabic Veterinary Sources from the Mamlūk Period (7th–10th/13th–16thCentury).” Al-Masaq 20, no. 2 (September 2008): 207–214. https://doi.org/10.1080/09503110802283424.

———. Mamluks and Animals: Veterinary Medicine in Medieval Islam. Leiden: Brill, 2012.

Brown, Karen and Daniel Gilfoyle, eds. Healing the Herds: Disease, Livestock Economies, and the Globalization of Veterinary Medicine. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2010.

Buell, Paul D., Timothy May, and David Ramey. “Greek and Chinese Horse Medicine: Déjà vu All Over Again.” Sudhoffs Archiv 94, no. 1 (2010): 31–56. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20778426.

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

———. ‘A plaine and easie waie to remedie a horse’: Equine Medicine in Early Modern England. Leiden: Brill, 2013.

Jones, Susan D. Valuing Animals: Veterinarians and their Patients in Modern America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

McCabe, Anne. A Byzantine Encyclopedia of Horse Medicine: The Sources, Compilation, and Transmission of the Hippiatrica. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Michell, A. R., ed. History of the Healing Professions: Parallels between Veterinary and Medical History. Vol. 3 of The Advancement of Veterinary Science: The Bicentenary Symposium Series, edited by A. R. Michell. Wallingford: CAB International, 1993.

Mishra, Saurabh. Beastly Encounters of the Raj: Livelihoods, Livestock and Veterinary Health in North India, 1790–1920. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015.

Mitsuda, Tatsuya. “Entangled Histories: German Veterinary Medicine, c.1770–1900.” Medical History 61, no. 1 (January 2017): 25–47. https://doi.org/10.1017/mdh.2016.99.

Woods, Abigail. “From One Medicine to Two: The Evolving Relationship between Human and Veterinary Medicine in England, 1791–1835.” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 91, no. 3 (Fall 2017): 494–523. https://doi.org/10.1353/bhm.2017.0058.

Woods, Abigail and Stephen Matthews. “‘Little, if at all, Removed from the Illiterate Farrier or Cow-leech’: The English Veterinary Surgeon, c1860–1885, and the Campaign for Veterinary Reform.” Medical History 54, no. 1 (January 2010): 29–54. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0025727300004300.

 

CFP: Horses, Moving, September 25-27, Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger

The conference seeks to address the movement and motility of horses from a wide array of perspectives, from prehistory until historical times. The Museum of Archaeology, University of Stavanger and the Høgskulen for landbruk og bygdeutvikling would like to invite you to “Horses, moving” a cross-disciplinary conference on the symbolism and relevance of horses in human societies throughout history, as well as the dynamics of human-horse interactions. Keynote speakers are professor Lynda Birke, University of Chester and professor Anita Maurstad, University of Tromsø. We would like to invite prospective participants to submit abstracts outlining their topic. Presentations may come from any field, archaeology, anthropology, ethnography, human geography, history, linguistics, folklore studies, equine studies or animal behavioral studies, to name but a few. Abstracts should be no more than 300 words and must be submitted by June 30. For further information or to submit an abstract, please contact Sean Dexter Denham, sean.d.denham@uis.no.

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 equinehistory@gmail.com. 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 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!