Since humans first emerged as a distinct species, they have been locked into relationships with other animals. Humans ate, fought, prayed, and moved with animals. In this original and conceptually rich book, historian Alan Mikhail puts the history of human-animal relations at the center of the transformations of the Ottoman Empire from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries.
He uses the history of the empire's most important province, Egypt, to explain how human interactions with livestock, dogs, and charismatic megafauna changed more in a few centuries than they had for millennia. The human world became one in which animals' social and economic functions were diminished. Without animals, humans had to remake the societies they had built around the intimate and cooperative interactions between species. The political and even evolutionary consequences of this separation of people and animals were wrenching and often violent.
In tracing these interspecies histories, The Animal in Ottoman Egypt offers a bold program for Ottoman historians-highlighting a new capacious periodization of the empire's history, integrating environmental history and other methodologies, and opening up archives in close to a dozen countries. The wide-ranging and creative analyses on offer also push far beyond Ottoman history to engage issues in animal studies, economic history, early modern history, and environmental history.
Carefully crafted and compellingly argued, The Animal in Ottoman Egypt tells the story of the high price humans and animals paid as they entered the modern world.
"Camels, donkeys, dogs, and water buffalo have their histories too, and in this compact book Alan Mikhail deftly shows just how closely intertwined they, and the histories of other animals, were with the human history of Ottoman Egypt. Carefully researched, lavishly illustrated, and engagingly written, this book sets a high standard for the historical study of human-animal relations and opens new vistas on the history of Egypt."
– J.R. McNeill, author of Mosquito Empires
"In this deeply and imaginatively researched book, Alan Mikhail uses insights drawn from the new field of animal history to revisit major transitions in Egyptian history, including modernization, urbanization, and integration into global networks. Particularly striking is the way his argument encompasses both the material conditions of animal existence, such as labor and disease, and the more abstract impact of religion, law, and politics."
– Harriet Ritvo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
"This is a fascinating book, which uses the diminishing presence of animals in various key locations to shed light on major social transformations in late 18th and early 19th century Egypt. Everything from climate and bacteria to foreign imperialists and their new technologies shaped the new Egypt that we see emerging in this book; each of these agents of change gets its due in Mikhail's intricate story."
– Kenneth Pomeranz, University of Chicago
Preface: Three Species
Introduction: Cephalopods in the Nile
Part I: Burdened and Beastly
1. Early Modern Human and Animal
2. Unleashing the Beast
Part II: Bark and Bite
4. Evolution in the Streets
Part III. Charisma and Capital
Conclusion: The Human Ends
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Alan Mikhail is Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt: An Environmental History, which won the Roger Owen Book Award of the Middle East Studies Association, and editor of Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa.