Animal City: The Domestication of Americaby Andrew A. Robichaud Harvard University Press
- Pub Date:
- Hbk 352 pages
- AU$89.00 NZ$92.17
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Why do America’s cities look the way they do? If we want to know the answer, we should start by looking at our relationship with animals.
Americans once lived alongside animals. They raised them, worked them, ate them, and lived off their products. This was true not just in rural areas but also in cities, which were crowded with livestock and beasts of burden. But as urban areas grew in the nineteenth century, these relationships changed. Slaughterhouses, dairies, and hog ranches receded into suburbs and hinterlands. Milk and meat increasingly came from stores, while the family cow and pig gave way to the household pet. This great shift, Andrew Robichaud reveals, transformed people’s relationships with animals and nature and radically altered ideas about what it means to be human.
As Animal City illustrates, these transformations in human and animal lives were not inevitable results of population growth but rather followed decades of social and political struggles. City officials sought to control urban animal populations and developed sweeping regulatory powers that ushered in new forms of urban life. Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals worked to enhance certain animals’ moral standing in law and culture, in turn inspiring new child welfare laws and spurring other wide-ranging reforms.
The animal city is still with us today. The urban landscapes we inhabit are products of the transformations of the nineteenth century. From urban development to environmental inequality, our cities still bear the scars of the domestication of urban America.
Introduction: Gentlemen Hogs
1. Cow Town: New York City and the Urban Dairy Crisis, 1830–1860
2. “The War on Butchers”: San Francisco and the Remaking of Animal Space, 1850–1870
3. Blood in the Water: The Butchers’ Reservation and the Reshaping of San Francisco
4. How to Kill a Horse: SPCAs, Urban Order, and State Power, 1866–1910
5. That Doggy in the Window: The SPCA and the Making of Pets in America
6. Captivating Spectacles: Public Battles over Animal Entertainment
7. Domesticating the Wild: Woodward’s Gardens and the Making of the Modern Zoo
''Deeply researched and supremely analytical, with a compelling strength of narrative purpose, Animal City is a superb history. Robichaud has written the kind of book that will show even the most skeptical readers that animal history is key to grasping American history.'' - Louis Warren, author of God’s Red Son: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America
''In this outstanding history, Robichaud powerfully recreates the snarling, barking, and mooing past where milk cows, stray dogs, slaughterhouse cattle, and working horses were part of daily life. Erasing animals from our streets and homes to improve sanitation and diminish cruelty, he argues, made it easier to justify their continued exploitation. Animal City is an eloquent reminder that this older urban menagerie persists even if we cannot always recognize our fellow residents.'' - Matthew Klingle, author of Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle
''Based on exhaustive research, Animal City provides a rich description of nineteenth-century human and animal lives, including the landscapes, laws, economies, and institutions that shaped them. Robichaud has made a landmark contribution to how we understand this formative period in American urban and animal history'' - Peter Alagona, author of After the Grizzly: Endangered Species and the Politics of Place in California
''In ways that can seem unimaginable today, urban animals played a major role in shaping how nineteenth-century Americans debated laws, considered the boundaries of brutality, transformed economies and environments, and ultimately understood themselves. Through masterful storytelling and deep historical research, Andrew Robichaud paints this ecologically diverse urban world in vivid colors, showing readers that we cannot understand modern cities without acknowledging their controversial and often invisible animal past.'' - Catherine McNeur, author of Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City
Andrew Robichaud is Assistant Professor of History at Boston University, where he teaches courses on environmental history, the history of cities, and the history of humans' relations with animals.