What was the life of a cow in early modern England like? What would it be like to milk that same cow, day-in, day-out, for over a decade? How did people feel about and toward the animals that they worked with, tended, and often killed? With these questions, Erica Fudge begins her investigation into a lost aspect of early modern life: the importance of the day-to-day relationships between humans and the animals with whom they worked. Such animals are and always have been, Fudge reminds us, more than simply stock; they are sentient beings with whom one must negotiate. It is the nature, meaning, and value of these negotiations that this study attempts to recover.
By focusing on interactions between people and their livestock, Quick Cattle and Dying Wishes restores animals to the central place they once had in the domestic worlds of early modern England. In addition, Quick Cattle and Dying Wishes uses human relationships with animals – as revealed through agricultural manuals, literary sources, and a unique dataset of over four thousand wills – to rethink what quick cattle meant to a predominantly rural population and how relationships with them changed as more and more people moved to the city. Offering a fuller understanding of both human and animal life in this period, Fudge innovatively expands the scope of early modern studies and how we think about the role that animals played in past cultures more broadly.
Erica Fudge is Professor of English Studies at the University of Strathclyde and Director of the British Animal Studies Network. She is the author of Brutal Reasoning and Perceiving Animals and editor of Renaissance Beasts.
"Clear-sighted yet moving."
– Times Higher Education
"Fudge digs into historical ethos, illuminating the relationships that the people of England retained with their livestock."
"Fudge's book offers much material not just to (cultural) historians and animal studies scholars, but to philosophers, too: it provides readers with a fascinating glimpse into early modern farm life, but it can also help to frame theoretical questions about the ethics of the human use of animals."
– Journal of British Studies
"A masterful demonstration of interdisciplinary scholarship [...] Fudge's work marks a major contribution to thinking about animal agency. [...] It is a book that offers new insights on almost every page, while apparent digressions lead the reader back to the central argument in surprising ways. It is a pleasure to read and will further establish Fudge as the foremost scholar of early modern animal studies."
– American Historical Review
"Quick Cattle and Dying Wishes is an impressive work, compellingly written by one of the leading scholars in the field. Fudge's argument is important, at times controversial, and always fascinating and thoughtful. Both the new material and the theoretical discussion are especially timely."
– Nigel Rothfels, Historian and Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and author of Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
"Quick Cattle and Dying Wishes is a remarkable achievement. Bold questions are asked, pioneering methods deployed, and stimulating answers are found. Erica Fudge's book is a significant contribution to the growing body of literature in animal studies."
– Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University