Author(s): Hannah Velten
Reaktion Books | No Category
Horse-drawn cabs rattling through the streets, terrified cattle being herded along congested thoroughfares to Smithfield market, pigs squealing and grunting in back yards - London was once filled with a cacophony of animal noises (and smells). But over the last thirty years, the city seems to have finally banished animals from its streets, apart from a few well-loved beasts such as the ravens at the Tower of London and the shire horses that pull the Lord Mayor's golden coach. Londoners once shared their homes with all kinds of animals - pets, livestock and vermin - and the streets were full of horses, cattle and the animal entertainers that performed to passers-by. Animals from all corners of the globe were imported through London's docks and exotic beasts became popular attractions at venues such as the Zoological Gardens or lived in the private menageries of kings and naturalists. The city's residents were entertained by performing fleas, mathematically gifted horses and dancing bears, as well as more bloodthirsty pursuits such as shooting and dog- and cockfights. In the Victorian age the city, not before time, became the birthplace of animal welfare societies and animal rights campaigns. Yet just as conditions gradually improved for the beasts of London, markets, slaughterhouses and dairies began to be moved to the suburbs, and the automobile eventually replaced the horse. The number of resident animals fell, and they are no longer a large part of everyday life in the capital - apart from a stalwart few, such as pets, pigeons and pests. Beastly London explores the complex and changing relationship between Londoners of all backgrounds and their animal neighbours, and reveals how animals helped to shape the city's economic, social and cultural history.
“Well researched, it is written in a popular style. It covers animal life from a variety of angles . . . beautifully produced and packed with a variety of well-chosen images, ranging from lithographs and photographs to paintings and cartoons.”
- Times Literary Supplement (JC BookGrocer)
Hannah Velten is a freelance writer based in Fletching, East Sussex, and the author of Cow (Reaktion, 2007) and Milk (Reaktion, 2010).