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Virtually every street in London was once filled with a cacophony of animal calls and noises. From cattle being herded through the streets surrounding Smithfield meat market, to the exotic residents of the Tower of London zoo. Infested by pests, vermin and bedbugs, Londoner's homes were also shared with pets or livestock, which were reared for food. Beasts from far-flung corners of the globe were imported through London's docks for display in all manner of establishments, from private homes and estates, to zoos and parks.
Londoners were entertained by ponies flying in hot air balloons, performing fleas, any number of animals baited by dogs and the ubiquitous horse, which plied the streets as an essential cog in the machine of London's industry and transport. Over the last 30 years, however, Londoners have seemingly banished animals from their streets.
Using a wide range of primary sources Beastly London explores the complex and changing relationship between Londoners of all classes and their animal neighbours: from a mainly exploitative relationship, to London becoming the birthplace of animal welfare societies and animal rights' campaigns. Beastly London shows how London's animals have been central to its success, and will appeal to all those interested in animal history and welfare.
Introduction: Revealing the Beasts
1 Livestock: Londoners' Nuisance Neighbours
2 Working Animals: Straining Every Muscle
3 Sporting Animals: Natural Instincts Exploited
4 Animals as Entertainers: Performance, Peculiarity and Pressure
5 Exotic Animals: The Allure of the Foreign and the Wild
6 Pampered Pets and Sad Strays
7 London Wildlife: The Persecuted and the Celebrated
Final Thoughts: An Apology and a Pardon
Hannah Velten is a freelance writer. A former agricultural journalist, she has worked extensively with animals on Australian cattle stations and British dairy farms. She is the author of Cow (2007) and Milk (2010), both published by Reaktion Books.
"Velten has a lovely way of writing and her sensitivity to the plight of animals is clear, but never obstructs from detail [...] Velten weaves the words of Pepys, Defoe, Evelyn, Dickens and Hogarth and other witnesses from history into her narrative; all of which is accompanied by an fantastic assemblage of carefully chosen images. In short, Velten does for London's animal history what Ackroyd did for its human history. From the cattle herded through the streets surrounding Smithfield's Market, and the work-weary cart, dray and coal horses, to the exotic but doomed animals holding residency at the Tower of London, and the pests, vermin and bedbugs in Londoners own homes – for most animals the capital was a living hell. Beastly London goes some way to repaying the great debt we owe them for not only shaping the city, but transforming everyday life."
– The History Vault