308 pages, b/w illustrations, b/w maps
Animals, and our ever-changing relationship with them, have left an indelible mark on human history. From the dawn of our existence, animals and humans have been constantly redefining their relationship with one another, and entire civilizations have risen and fallen upon this curious bond we share with our fellow fauna. Brian Fagan unfolds this fascinating story from the first wolf who wandered into our prehistoric ancestors' camp and found companionship, to empires built on the backs of horses, donkeys, and camels, to the industrial age when some animals became commodities, often brutally exploited, and others became pets, nurtured and pampered, sometimes to absurd extremes.
Through an in-depth analysis of six truly transformative human-animal relationships, Fagan shows how our habits and our very way of life were considerably and irreversibly altered by our intimate bond with animals. Among other stories, Fagan explores how herding changed human behavior; how the humble donkey helped launch the process of globalization; and how the horse carried a hearty band of nomads across the world and toppled the emperor of China.
With characteristic care and penetrating insight, Fagan reveals the profound influence that animals have exercised on human history and how, in fact, they often drove it.
"Through stories spanning all of recorded history, anthropologist and popular-science writer Fagan skillfully recounts how many civilization-advancing innovations before the Industrial Revolution involved human management of animals."
"Fagan (Emeritus, Anthropology/Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; The Attacking Ocean: The Past, Present, and Future of Rising Sea Levels) brings consummate skill to this frequently horrifying study of humanity's interaction with animals [...] His analysis, however, is sound, the product of an accomplished archaeological and anthropological background. Though reminding us of the cruelties still visited upon animals and insisting that we respect them anew – not merely as pets or idealized creatures of the wild – Fagan offers no resolutions to our conflicting attitudes toward them, but his compelling, cohesive book calls for further enlightenment."
– starred review, Kirkus
"The result of Fagan's exhaustive research is thought provoking and at times heartrending. The author skillfully traces the arc of human-animal relationships from ancient partners in survival to the master-servant dynamic we still see today despite the efforts of animal-rights activists [...] History, anthropology, and cultural studies enthusiasts will enjoy this excellent, intelligent book, as will animal lovers of all stripes."
– starred review, Library Journal
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Brian Fagan is emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Beyond the Blue Horizon, Elixir, the Los Angeles Times bestseller Cro-Magnon, the New York Times bestseller The Great Warming, and The Attacking Ocean, among others. He has decades of experience at sea and is the author of several titles for sailors, including the widely praised The Cruising Guide to Central and Southern California. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.