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21 July 2015

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Horse Nations reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement

Professor Peter Mitchell’s recent book, Horse Nations: The Worldwide Impact of the Horse on Indigenous Societies Post-1492 was reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement on 8 July 2015.

The review, lead article on the front cover of the TLS, describes Horse Nations as a ‘landmark study’. Peter Coates says: ‘this rich and diverse literature in history, ethnohistory, anthropology and archaeology has not previously been approached comparatively or intercontinentally (in terms of place) or treated collectively through an amalgam of historical, anthropological and archaeological approaches.’ Coates also writes: ‘As well as offering a template for the melding of historical, anthropological and archaeological data, methods and perspectives, Horse Nations is a substantial contribution to the study of borderland environments, middle grounds and hybrid societies. It is also a major addition to the field of horse history. More generally, Mitchell’s book is a valuable contribution to interspecies history, as well as a powerful affirmation of animal agency.’

Horse Nations provides the first wide-ranging and up-to-date synthesis of the impact of the horse on the Indigenous societies of North and South America, southern Africa, and Australasia following its introduction as a result of European contact post-1492. Drawing on sources in a variety of languages and on the evidence of archaeology, anthropology, and history, the volume outlines the transformations that the acquisition of the horse wrought on a diverse range of groups within these four continents. It explores key topics such as changes in subsistence, technology, and belief systems, the horse’s role in facilitating the emergence of more hierarchical social formations, and the interplay between ecology, climate, and human action in adopting the horse, as well as considering how far equestrian lifestyles were ultimately unsustainable.

Of interest to scholars and students of world history, hunter-gatherer studies, animal history, archaeology, and material anthropology, it would also appeal to a general reader keen to learn more about one of the most widespread and distinctive cultural transformations of the past 500 years.

Horse Nations was published by Oxford University Press on 26 March 2015.

The TLS is the only literary weekly to offer comprehensive coverage not just of the latest and most important publications, in every subject, in several languages – but also current theatre, opera, exhibitions and film.

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