Horses & Courts Recap

By Kathryn Renton

     “Horses and Courts,” an international symposium, focused scholarly attention on the striking use of the horse at monarchical courts for public display and private power brokering, primarily from the fifteenth to nineteenth century. Conference organizers Donna Landry (University of Kent’s Centre for Studies in the Long Eighteenth Century) and Philip Mansel (Society for Court Studies) brought together an intersection of presenters and attendees from the EU, UK, and US, hosted by The Wallace Collection, for a series of more than 30 complementary presentations over the three-day congress.  

 800px-Reiter_(Jacopo_Bellini)    Tobias Capwell, (Curator of Arms and Amor, The Wallace Collection) set the stage in his presentation by emphasizing the essential crossover between artistry and practicality in courtly equine pursuits. The rarity of extant saddles, for example, owes to their use and re-use.  While armor transformed the man and horse, even into fantastical creatures for theatrical mounting the horse exposed the rider to risk rather than merely the pretense of it.  Several presentations demonstrated the practical use of horses in negotiations over exile, inheritance, and diplomatic encounters.  These power plays had multi-faceted extensions in the rich display of carousels, venery or hunting, pas d’armes, royal entrances, and racing. The eminent visibility of participating in these events also found its historical counterweight in a panel on the female rider or ‘Amazon.’  Despite the long-term shift in values from “haut école” to English horsemanship noted by several presentations, the arranged tours of the Royal Mews and Household Cavalry demonstrated the continued relevance of horses and court politics. A strong representation of English, French and Spanish courts did not preclude the presentation of equal emphasis on horses in the courts of Denmark, Sweden, and the Habsburg territories further east, and the shared riding masters and stud horses demonstrated the interconnectedness of the same courts. Presentations also included Algeria, South Africa, and India, and this global reach raises the possibility of “Horse and Empire” as a fruitful theme for a subsequent symposium. Plans are underway for equine congresses in Vienna and Chantilly, as well as the EHC Conference in California at the end of this year.

Review livetweets by @NicoleMennell, and the #HorsePower2018 on twitter.
     Nicole Mennell is a CHASE-funded doctoral candidate within the Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies at the University of Sussex. Her thesis, ‘Shakespeare’s Sovereign Beasts: Political Discourse and Human-Animal Relations in Early Modern Drama’, explores the connections made between figures of sovereignty and animals in early modern drama. Nicole’s chapter, ‘“The Dignity of Mankind”: Edward Tyson’s Anatomie of a Pygmy and the Ape-Man Boundary’ was recently published in the edited collection Seeing Animals After Derrida (2018). She also has a forthcoming chapter on Shakespeare’s lions in The Routledge Handbook of Shakespeare and Animals.

Image: Bellini’s drawing of a monstrous chaffron. Louvre, Cabinet des Dessins

 

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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!

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 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.

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!

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News from ASEH

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     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 Zenyatta.com. Any suggestions welcome!

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