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Cattle: An Informed Social History Illustrated Edition

3.5 out of 5 stars 7 ratings

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Editorial Reviews Review

"Cattle have come on a long journey with us, from pastoral times to settled agriculture, from the New World to post-industrialism." So writes popular historian and children's-book author Laurie Carlson in this wide-ranging meditation on the relationship between humans and cattle throughout human history.

Though her narrative suffers from a somewhat scattered approach, Carlson has much to say about that long journey. Cattle have shaped human societies for millennia, she notes, figuring prominently in the lives and imaginations of the cave dwellers of Paleolithic Europe, the farmers of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, and 19th-century Australia, South America, and the American West, to name but a few. She stops in at each of these times and places, pondering curiosities as she does. Along the way, for instance, she writes of scandals involving tainted beef served to American field soldiers during the Spanish-American War and subsequent advances in food safety; the efforts of German scientists to reverse-breed cattle to arrive at the ancestral aurochs, extinct for nearly four centuries; the ravages of "zoonoses," or animal-borne diseases such as smallpox and cowpox; and the role of the cattle industry in the development of transcontinental railroads. She also observes that cattle husbandry has gone from an economic given to a source of controversy throughout much of the world, thanks to the rise of new bovine diseases and the effects of overgrazing on already threatened environments. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Carlson (A Fever in Salem; Boss of the Plains: The Hat that Won the West) offers a well-researched exploration of the symbiotic relationship between humans and cattle. Beginning with prehistoric cave drawings, she traces the history of cattle through domestication, agriculture and industrialization, which, she argues, has led to current concerns about food safety. In Europe, domesticated cattle herds led to the development of clans with social hierarchies and complex rule systems. She plumbs the link between woman and cattle: because women cared for the herd, Carlson argues that such societies were "largely female-dominated, or at least gender neutral." She examines the halcyon days of cattle ranching in the American West, exploring early conflicts between ranchers, the federal government and moneyed interests. Carlson pays particular attention to the effect American industrialization and science had on cattle and considers the ramifications of such developments as canning and refrigerated rail cars to carry meat across the country to consumers. She examines the benefits cows have brought, most notably perhaps the vaccine for smallpox, as well as concerns about mad cow disease and E. coli infections. Carlson reveals such historical footnotes as the role butter played in the Protestant reformation and makes sometimes unexpected connections, such as her ruminations on the link between selective breeding and the eugenics program in Nazi Germany.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product details

  • Item Weight : 1.46 pounds
  • Hardcover : 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1566633885
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1566633888
  • Dimensions : 6.32 x 1.22 x 9.24 inches
  • Publisher : Ivan R. Dee; Illustrated edition (August 22, 2001)
  • Language: : English
  • Customer Reviews:
    3.5 out of 5 stars 7 ratings

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