The fastest animal alive, the falcon deserves attention not just for the combination of speed, power, beauty and ferocity that has made it an object of fascination for thousands of years, but for the light it sheds on the cultures through which it has flown. Falcon, bridging science and cultural history, surveys the practical and symbolic uses of falcons in human culture in new and exciting ways.
Bestselling natural history writer Helen Macdonald follows the movements of the falcon, her personal experience and knowledge of falconry enriching the history and lore of this bird of prey. She ranges across the globe and over many millennia, taking in natural history, myth and legend, falconry, science and conservation, and falcons in the military, in urban settings and the corporate world. Along the way we discover how falcons were mobilized in secret military projects, their links with espionage, the Third Reich and the space programme, and even how they have featured in erotic stories.
Originally published in 2006, this revised 2016 edition features a new introduction. Combining in-depth practical, personal and scientific knowledge, Macdonald offers a fascinating account of the place of these birds in human history. Falcon is for lovers of the countryside, birdwatchers or anyone who has ever wondered why falcons are so compelling.
Helen Macdonald is a writer, poet, illustrator, historian and affiliate at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Her books include the poetry volume Shaler's Fish (2001) and the bestselling H is for Hawk (2014).
Reviews of the first edition:
"While presenting the falcon as a creature superbly adapted to its environment, Macdonald's scientific but lyrical study also celebrates its mythical, cultural and iconic significance"
– The Times
"This beautifully designed book offers a natural history of this fastest of all the animals as well as the story of how these birds' lives have long intertwined with those of humans."
– Washington Post
"accompanied by sumptious illustrations, Helen Macdonald gives us not just the natural history but the cultural history as well [...] Even for the non-ornithologist this book provides fascinating insights. Essential reading for the enthusiast."
– The Tablet
"This is a wonderful book. It is not a falconry text, nor is it a falcon biology or a conservation one. Macdonald's slim volume is far more ambitious: it is an attempt to capture and indeed explain the essence of the falcon. This is simply a most beautifully considered social history of the genus Falco [...] it informs and provokes in equal measure [...] Macdonald writes beautifully and with a refreshing clarity."
– The Falconer
"What Macdonald does with Falcon is bring all of herself to the subject. She breathes life into the work; pulls the lives of falcons and people together into a rare three-dimensional portrait. The effect is beautiful and lasting. a pleasure to read [...] a trained historian of science and a passionate falconer, Macdonald's personal experience and knowledge bear fruitfully on this elegant account. The book is a must for anyone interested in animals [...]"
– British Journal of the History of Science
"The book's author – the historian of science, avid falconer, and gifted writer Helen Macdonald succeeds brilliantly [...] a smart, engaging and multidisciplinary account that vividly brings her subject to life."
– Journal of the History of Biology
"These are the latest two books on birds in this beautifully conceived Animal Series [...] They represent an in-depth, erudite account of the natural, cultural and miscellaneous histories of these generic birds. Both are very well written, highly informative, full of fascinating details, and richly illustrated with wonderful plates and photographs. The books are arguably some of the most original and accomplished written about animals, and the erudition displayed throughout is impressive"