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The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times Hardcover – January 17, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (January 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393052206
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393052206
  • Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 0.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,160,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The word "vegetarian" wasn't coined until the 1840s, but Stuart's magisterial social history demonstrates how deeply seated the vegetarian impulse has been in Western culture since the 17th century. Thinkers such as Francis Bacon and Thomas Bushell contended that a vegetarian diet provided a key not only to long life but also to spiritual perfection: God had permitted Adam and Eve to eat only plants, fruits and seeds, and doing so could restore humankind to Edenic wholeness with nature. Seventeenth- and 18th-century travelers to India introduced the Hindu idea of ahimsa (the preservation of all life) as an ideal for a slaughter-free society. Stuart follows the development of vegetarianism through its Romantic proponents Shelley and Rousseau and on into the 19th century, when doctors proffered scientific evidence that human teeth and intestines were more similar to those of herbivores than of carnivores. Looking at literary culture, Stuart notes that Samuel Richardson, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen included vegetarian characters in their novels. Stuart offers a masterful social and cultural history of a movement that changed the ways people think about the food they eat. 24 pages of color illus., b&w illus. throughout. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

As Stuart points out early in his marvelously researched, deeply revealing, minutely considered history of vegetarianism, it was not till the nineteenth century and the founding of Britain's Vegetarian Society that Western society seriously confronted its conflicted attitudes toward the eating of meat. Before that, ascetics and other fanatics pursued meat-free diets for substantially religious reasons. No less significant a figure than the eminent Jacobean Francis Bacon led the search for a diet that would prolong the human life span. Some radical French revolutionaries regarded meat eating as part of a larger oppression carried on by dissolute upper classes. Vegetarianism gained new momentum with the colonial conquest of India's flourishing Hindu civilization, awash with dietary taboos. Vegetarianism became so strong a cultural movement that it survived even its association in the twentieth century with Adolf Hitler. Recent history has seen the expansion of a correlative animal-rights movement. Students of this phenomenon will be forever grateful for Stuart's immense bibliography. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Customer Reviews

This is one of the most informative and important books that I have ever read.
T. Colin Campbell
The cast of characters in this book is huge and if you are a fan of 17th, 18th and 19th c. biography then you will come across many familiar names.
Jennifer Smith
Such information may be hard to come by, but could there have been more information?
Julian Elson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

47 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Julian Elson on April 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
There is no doubt that Tristram Stuart has conducted a great deal of research in order to write The Bloodless Revolution. He has a astute eye for minute details unique personalities. Doctors, cranks, religious fanatics, scientists, and others, some famous and some obscure, are rendered with thorough and loving detail. If nothing else, the sheer scope of Stuart's work is illustrative of how broad and diverse a movement vegetarianism is.

Yet sometimes I feel that Stuart was in some ways blinded by his own hypotheses and unwilling to look at alternative views. Stuart believes that European vegetarianism is rooted in Indian culture. This is not an indefensible view, but his case for it would have been stronger if he had answered some potential objections to such assertions, rather than ignoring them. Furthermore, literally all of European history between Pythagoras and English Revolution is simply missing. It is perfectly reasonable for Mr. Stuart to focus on a particular era, but readers with some preestablished famniliarity with vegetarian history -- a group likely to comprise a significant portion of The Bloodless Revolution's readers -- are likely to ask questions. For instance, why does St. Francis of Assisi not appear once in the entire book? Why is Leonardo da Vinci only mentioned in a quote comparing him to the Indians? Should the Cathars be ignored? It is one thing to focus on a specific era of history -- the English Revolution to the Second World War -- but it is another to leap straight from Pythagoras to Francis Bacon while ignoring virtually all of the intervening millenia.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on January 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
C.S. Lewis once delightedly insisted that he couldn't be offered "a mug of tea that was too big or a book that was too long." Being less stalwart than he, my heart sank when I saw the size of the wonderfully named Tristram Stuart's The Bloodless Revolution. But I was quickly captivated by Stuart's enjoyable style, his astounding erudition, the sheer interest of his subject matter, and the exquisite illustrations, in both color and black-and-white.

Stuart writes intellectual history in the old-fashioned graceful way of a Basil Wiley, Keith Thomas, or Carolyn Merchant. He excels at showing the cultural, economic, moral, and religious influences from Francis Bacon through the nineteenth century romantic period on attitudes towards a meatless diet. I was especially intrigued to discover that some of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century utilitarians and economists regarded vegetarianism as a means of overcoming the Malthusian disparity between population and resources--a very forward-looking strategy indeed. Stuart's epilogue, in which he discusses the early twentieth-century's "post-Rousseauist" back-to-nature movement that inspired folks as diverse as Gandhi and Hitler, is fascinating. I hope that it serves as the seed for Stuart's next book.

All in all, highly recommended for those interested in the history and culture of vegetarianism as well as those interested in modern British intellectual history. For collections of some of the primary sources referred to by Stuart, the reader may wish to consult Ethical Vegetarianism from Pythagoras to Peter Singer and Religious Vegetarianism from Hesiod to the Dalai Lama.
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26 of 33 people found the following review helpful By T. Colin Campbell on August 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the most informative and important books that I have ever read. I have worked for a half century in the diet and health research and policy arena and have reluctantly but most assuredly because convinced of the health superiority of a diet comprised of plant-based foods. Along the way I also have become very much aware of the difficulty of communicating this message to the professional and public communities. Although serious interest in this topic is emerging in the last few years, even last few months, I am also aware of a visceral sometimes very hostile reaction against this view from a relatively small but sometimes influential group of people. The gap between the believers and non-believers in this way of eating could hardly be more contentious. Thus I have frequently wondered about the question of whatever happened to rational, civil discourse on a topic such as this, especially at a time when we are getting so much empirical data to support the use of a plant-based diet and so much demand for health care solutions.

This book comes as close as any to providing the explanation that I have sought. Although I am not a professional historian or philosopher, I have long had an avid interest in these disciplines. I strongly believe in that age-old adage that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. However limited my perspective may be, I nonetheless find this book by Tristram Stuart to be an incredible presentation of some events and ideas that really go a long way to help provide an answer to my question.

I am still awed by the depth and sophistication of knowledge that existed among leading scholars and medical people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries concerning the use of a plant-based diet.
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