This book tracks bullfighting’s history from its origins in Spain as a form of public torture, to a more audience-friendly, performance-based sport, to an object of political and social debate. (Naturally there is some overlap: bullfighting was the object of moral outrage pretty much from its beginning.) While the writing is dryly factual, the many illustrations—there’s something on almost every page—convey the sport’s elegance, majesty, and visceral appeal. The author makes many interesting observations (her discussion of early bullfighting as an adaptation of the language and form of the public executions of the Spanish Inquisition is especially fascinating), and her description of the mechanics of bullfighting, of the equipment and techniques, is quite instructive. Ultimately the book’s appeal will be decided by the reader’s own feelings about its subject: if you think bullfighting is barbaric and abhorrent, nothing here will change your mind. On the other hand, if you view it as a part of cultural history, there is much here that will intrigue and inform. --David Pitt
"A History of Bullfighting is a compact, digestible paperback from Reaktion Books, in which the author, Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier, takes the reader down the bload-soaked streets of Seville in the eighteenth century to the blood-soaked arenas of Latin American in the nineteenth to the blood-soaked manuscripts of Bataille and Hemingway in thte twentieth. . . . [The book] is spectacular in its own right--not just in its descriptions but in its images, culled from bullfighting's rich visual history."
(New Yorker Book Bench blog
"In this broad deconstruction of the meanings of bullfighting, Hardouin-Fugier musters copious data through wide-ranging, often novel, examples--art, literature, chronicles. This results in a powerful demythologization of the event and its meanings. Well-illustrated chapters cover history, practices, artistic interpretations, and sociocultural movements that have adopted or rejected the bullfight as a key symbol."
"It's safe to say Hardouin-Fugier isn't an aficionada of the bullring, yet her account of tauromachia's 'troubled' history does its best to be fair-minded. The corrida has had its controversial aspects pretty much as long as it's existed, despite the air of chivalric convention and artistic flair created around it in modern times. The cultural richness that's resulted can hardly be denied, as this stunningly (if sometimes disturbing) illustrated book makes clear."–Scotsman