#MemberMonday: Jane Flynn

Toby at Marchington

Jane Flynn
PhD, ‘Sense and Sentimentality: The Soldier-Horse Relationship in The Great War’, The University of Derby (2016)
MA, Masters in Humanities by Research, The University of Derby (2011)
PGCE, English with Drama, The University of York (2000)
RSA Cert., Teaching English as a Foreign Language, The British Council, Hong Kong (1996)
BA, English Literature and Theatre Studies, The University of Leeds (1995)


What got you into history? Equine History
?

   I was introduced to ponies and riding when I was two. A local family would occasionally call my Mum and ask if I’d like to go out for a ride. Donned in wellies, my checky trousers and favourite “jazzy jumper” I was ready to go, and always beside myself with excitement. I remember Noodle and I demonstrating my trot (very bouncy) to my Mum and Dad, and how I could get off by myself. Noodle was an absolute star; a proper Thelwell pony who was wise beyond measure, but not without his cheeky moments! Since then little has changed – the ponies just got a wee bit bigger!

   This was the start of a life-long obsession I am now lucky enough to be able to combine with my academic work. I started off as an English Literature person, so my interest in Equine History really began with a steady trickle of the likes of Surtees, Somerville and Ross, Sewell, and Sassoon. It started turning into a historical interest when I found a copy of Glenda Spooner’s For Love of Horses at an antiques fair. The rest is history!

   The many wonderful (and very memorable) horses and ponies I have met and ridden over the years inspired me to do what I do now. Especially my old boy Toby, who taught me so much, gave me countless wonderful memories, and to whom I dedicated my PhD.

Who is your favourite historical horse?

   Soldiers often had their favourite horses, and it is they I immediately think of. They are too numerous to mention here, and I could write for hours about each and every one, but here are a few notable examples. Slogger earned his name, and the respect of the men in his unit, because he always tried his best. He was particularly admired for his ability to get waggons and limbers out of the mud when other horses, and even mules, would have given up long before. Lion was a mule who knew his own mind. It took four men to groom him, but for his driver he would do anything. Kitty patiently withstood all the noise and chaos around her. She featured regularly in the letters of the soldier to whom she had been assigned. He was clearly very fond of her; often expressing concern about her, or telling amusing tales of their adventures and exploits.

   Last, and by no means least, was a chestnut gelding called Songster.  Songster was a Songsterfirm favourite of the Leicestershire Yeomanry, and after the War became something of a local hero. He was affectionately described as having been “as artful as a barrowload of monkeys” – a character trait to which his survival of the War was largely attributed. After a long and active life (he hunted with the Quorn, and attended every Yeomanry camp until his last in 1935) Songster died at the grand old age of forty in 1940. Slogger, Lion, Kitty and Songster survive into modern memory, but only because they were remembered with such respect and affection by the soldiers who had known them.

What are you working on right now?

   I am currently working on a book project entitled Soldiers and their Horses: Sense, Sentimentality and the Soldier-Horse Relationship in The Great War. My proposal is under consideration at the moment, so watch this space!

Anything else you’d like to add?

   I will be presenting “The Pitiable Martyrdom of Man’s Faithful Friend: Portrayals of the Soldier and his Horse in The War Illustrated, 1914 to 1918” at the Artistic Expressions and The Great War conference at Hofstra University, New York, November 7th to 9th 2018.

   I will also be presenting “A Weapon in the Hands of the Allies: Transporting British Army Horses and Mules during The Great War” at the Maritime Animals: Telling Stories of Animals at Sea conference, at The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, April 25th to 27th 2019.

 

 

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#ShelfieSunday: Bedouin Heritage

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Bedouin Heritage: The World of the Arabian Horse

by Matthias Oster
Review by Hylke Hettema

   In Bedouin Heritage (2016), Matthias Oster proposes to take his readers on a journey back in time to a world long gone.  The author argues that in order to grasp the nature and understand the concept of the Arabian horse, one must venture into its world; that of the Bedouin.  He aims to give the reader a new perspective by re-sketching the surroundings and society from which the breed emerged through “numerous citations from authorities from many centuries, disciplines and origins from all over the world.”

   The enormous amount of information presented in this work is organized in a surprising, yet familiar framework. Using the example of the notorious Lawrence of Arabia and his pillars[1], combined with the idea that biblical evidence supports such an outline, the author presents us somewhat a guidebook for understanding and breeding Arabian horses based on seven pillars. A brief description of the desert and most of its animal inhabitants sets the stage for the saga of the Arab Nomads.  A chapter about Bedouin history circles around the connection between the bible and Bedouin.  Three main arguments are made to support this connection; first the idea that the bible contains an accurate description of Bedouin society, and matches that of the early Orientalist renderings of encounters with Bedouin in the Middle East. Second the author links the camel, the center of Bedouin society and culture, to Abraham and Ishmael.  And third it is argued that Bedouin society is based on kinship systems that are found in the Bible. A chapter on Bedouin society follows. Using Orientalist writings and Biblical examples, the author elaborates on the social but also infra- structures of Arab Nomads. In this chapter the camel plays a more prominent role in the narrative and it isn’t until the aspect of religion is discussed that more examples about the role and position of horses are brought forward.

   This changes in the next chapter on Bedouin tribes, in which the author discusses the Arab tribes who have been known to keep horses.  To make it tangible, the connection to current breeding programs is made by showing which tribes bred certain horses that have been imported across the globe in the modern period. Subsequently the topic of strains (bloodlines) is brought up. A brief overview of the concept of strain-theory among breeders is provided before the author elaborates on the various strains, illustrated by photos of famous horses throughout recent history. A brief chapter called Bedouin Tradition discusses the role of Arabic poetry featuring horses and horse descriptions, followed by a chapter on the characteristics of the Bedouin horse and a scientific chapter about all things medical regarding horses and some genetic diseases particular to Arabian horses. A concluding chapter brings the reader back to the Bible and the proposed connection between Bedouin culture and biblical scriptures.

   Despite its popularity among Arabian horse enthusiasts, this work can not be compared to the average book on the breed. It contains far more detailed and carefully selected information about the Bedouin society and culture from which this breed is said to have sprouted. The author is also touching upon public debates about purity of blood and the concept of strain theory and subsequent breeding strategies. The chapter about the tribes is a treasure of information not only to breeders of Arabian horses but also to those who research migration and cultural exchange.

   A reader with a more general interest in both nomads and horses may however be overwhelmed by the amount of text and detail of the book. The focus lies with a specific type of Arabian horses[2] and many of the names and examples of individual horses given may be lost on a reader with no background knowledge of tribal systems and Arabian horse bloodlines of the Middle East.  An academic reader will notice the use of rather outdated or refuted sources, as well as an enormous corpus of Orientalist material. When it comes to the description of the desert and perhaps the animals it might not cause trouble, but using, and in this case, literally copying Orientalist works to sketch Bedouin society, tradition and ‘qualities’ is at least dubious. It would seem the author is not aware of the contextualization needed for both Oriental works as well as Arabic poetry. He does mention such poetry probably is more symbolic than real, but does not show the ongoing debate surrounding the idea of the existence of actual Pre-Islamic poetry.

   In conclusion Bedouin Heritage deserves to be ranked among the better works on Arabian horses as product of Bedouin society and culture. Especially when readers are looking for a detailed overview of the concept of both Bedouin life as well of the idea of the Arabian horse. To a more seasoned reader on the topic of Oriental horses this work however comes across as somewhat neo-Orientalist, mainly because of the constant efforts to tie the concept of Arabian horse breeding to the Bible as well as the justification of appropriation of the breed by others than Arabs/Bedouin themselves. It may be clear that the author admires the romantic adventures of the Orientalist writers on the topic very much and has tried to re-create his own story in a similar manner, therefore part of his goal is completed. While none of this information is in fact new, the book offers a unique perspective in terms of its enormous amount of information.

[1] Lawrence, T.E. Seven Pillars of Wisdom. 1922

[2] Straight Egyptian/Asil Arabians

CFP: session on medieval equestrian history at IMC Leeds 2019

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   “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 (levantia@hotmail.com) 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, levantia@hotmail.com).

#MemberMonday: Dr. Kathryn Renton

drrenton

    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.

#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.

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.