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Beastly London A History of Animals in the City

By: Hannah Velten(Author)
288 pages, 34 colour & 87 b/w photos and illustrations
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Beastly London
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  • Beastly London ISBN: 9781780236735 Paperback Oct 2016 In stock
  • Beastly London ISBN: 9781780231679 Hardback Aug 2013 Out of Print #206464
Selected version: £29.99
About this book Contents Customer reviews Biography Related titles
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About this book

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

Photo Acknowledgements

Customer Reviews


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.

By: Hannah Velten(Author)
288 pages, 34 colour & 87 b/w photos and illustrations
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Media reviews

"Velten's sumptuously illustrated, well-researched history of the city is a comprehensive and accessible account of changing and complex animal-human relationships [...] deeply absorbing."
History Today

"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."

"Anyone with an interest in urban development, sociology, and particularly English literature should consider their own libraries incomplete without a copy of Beastly London readily available on the shelves."
The Well-read Naturalist

"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."
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