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Noble Brutes

, 248 pages

12 halftones

December 2008


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Noble Brutes

How Eastern Horses Transformed English Culture

"His lordship’s Arabian," a phrase often heard in eighteenth-century England, described a new kind of horse imported into the British Isles from the Ottoman Empire and the Barbary States of North Africa. Noble Brutes traces how the introduction of these Eastern blood horses transformed early modern culture and revolutionized England’s racing and equestrian tradition.

More than two hundred Oriental horses were imported into the British Isles between 1650 and 1750. With the horses came Eastern ideas about horsemanship and the relationship between horses and humans. Landry’s groundbreaking archival research reveals how these Eastern imports profoundly influenced riding and racing styles, as well as literature and sporting art.

After only a generation of crossbreeding on British soil, the English Thoroughbred was born, and with it the gentlemanly ideal of free forward movement over a country as an enactment of English liberties.

This radical reinterpretation of Ottoman and Arab influences on horsemanship and breeding sheds new light on English national identity, as illustrated in such classic works as Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels and George Stubbs's portrait of Whistlejacket.

Donna Landry is a professor of English at the University of Kent and author of The Invention of the Countryside: Hunting, Walking, and Ecology in English Literature, 1671–1831 and The Muses of Resistance: Laboring-Class Women’s Poetry in Britain, 1739–1796.

"Landry has made an attractive contribution to the emerging field of 'animal history' and to the larger field of cultural studies."

"This is a fascinating thesis, absorbing in its many insights and detours, and lovingly argued."

"Only someone who is both a cultural historian and a devoted horse person could have written this remarkably engaging, wide-ranging book. Landry... tells in clear, vivid, fascinating detail of developments that will engage cultural and literary historians and animal fanciers."

"Donna Landry has produced a book of clean organization and admirable coherence. She writes with telling precision, as well as first-hand acquaintance with all horsey matters."

"An important and most welcome contribution to our understanding of the multi-faceted impact of horses on humans and focuses on the significant influence of Eastern imports on English culture... Johns Hopkins University press have published a book with exemplary production values to complement the content."

"A timely and valuable contribution to the recently burgeoning field of animality and animal studies in the early modern period."

"It would make a surprising story and support claims that animal studies can make important contributions to the study of history and culture."

"A multi-faceted work that will serve as a landmark in the emerging field of animal and cultural studies."

"All historians of the early modern period would benefit from reading this multi-faceted and fascinating book."

"Landry's accomplished book is sensitive not only to human-animal studies but to connected issues of class and human-animal labor."

"Noble Brutes does a service not only to scholarship, but to horses as well."

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