1st Edition

Horses, Power and Place A More-Than-Human Geography of Equine Britain

By Neil Ward Copyright 2024
    206 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Horses, Power and Place explores the evolution of humanity’s relationship with horses, from early domestication through to the use of the horse as a draught animal, an agricultural, industrial and military asset, and an animal of sport and leisure.

    Taking an historical approach, and using Britain as a case study, this is the first book-length exploration of the horse in the more-than-human geography of a nation. It traces the role and implications of horse-based mobility for the evolution of settlement structure, urban morphology and the rural landscape. It maps the growth and various uses of horses to the point of ‘peak horse’ in the early twentieth century before considering the contemporary place of the horse in twenty-first century economy and society. It assesses the role of the horse in the formation of places within Britain and in the formation of the nation. The book reflects on the implications of this historical and contemporary equine geography for animal geographies and animal studies. It argues for the study of animals in general in how places are made, not just by humans.

    Written in a clear and accessible style, this book will be essential reading for students and scholars of animal geography and animal studies more widely.

    Chapter 1.       Introduction: Horses, Humanity and Scholarship

    Chapter 2.       Horses in Pre-Industrial History

    Chapter 3.       Horses, the Industrial Revolution and Empire

    Chapter 4.       Horses and the Town

    Chapter 5.       Horses and the Countryside

    Chapter 6.       The Horse Economy

    Chapter 7.       Horses and Social Change

    Chapter 8.       Horse Knowledge

    Chapter 9.       More-Than-Human Geography and Equine Futures



    Neil Ward is Professor of Rural & Regional Development at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, where he was Deputy Vice Chancellor (2014–2021). He was Director of the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University (2004–2008), served as a Cabinet Office advisor on agriculture and rural affairs, and is author of Net Zero, Food and Farming: Climate Change and the UK Agri-Food System (Routledge, 2023).

    “This is an historical geography of Britain that is both horse-drawn – drawn through the figure of the horse – and horse-powered – showing how the power of equine bodies (to carry, lift, trot, gallop, and more) has shaped the country’s changing human landscapes. Whether packhorse or post-horse, carthorse or racehorse, workhorse or war horse, Neil Ward tellingly captures their crucial roles in connecting spaces, quickening human circulation, and making places, spurring innovation in work, infrastructure and social relations. This book is hence that rare thing, one that will intrigue lay readers, engage serious scholars and inspire all who are fascinated by big questions such as those about human-animal co-existence.”

    -Chris Philo, editor of Animal Spaces, Beastly Places

    “Neil Ward expertly provides a geographical and historical analysis of social power and place-making activities around the lives of horses in Britain. While we read less of individual horse lives and their unique personalities, it is clear how this species’ personable nature has created a large horse-shaped hoofprint across contemporary society, and not only in rural areas. Ward’s analysis raises critical questions about the consequences of human-horse relations, not only for the quality and value of various horse lives lived, but also their specific contribution to producing social harms and ongoing inequalities.”

    -Emma Roe, University of Southampton

    “Neil Ward canters through time and space to provide a much-needed study on a national scale, linking fragmented academic fields and providing original observations which bring horse-human relations right up to date. From war horses to therapy horses – and from agricultural labourers to climate-impacting consumers – Ward delivers a thought-provoking, must-read overview for students, scholars and policymakers alike.”

    -Tom Almeroth-Williams, author of City of Beasts

    “Horses, Power, and Place is essential reading to anyone interested in horses, ‘horsescapes’ and animal and equine geographies. It provides a rich and much-needed analysis of the histories and geographies of horses in Britain. Mobilising a more-than-human framework, Ward shows how different human-horse relations manifest over time. This includes the essential role of the horse in agriculture, transport and industry, and in war times, combined with more familiar human-horse relations, notably the racehorse. By emplacing the horse in different historical and contemporary contexts and uses, it stretches where and how we associate horses with place-making. A fascinating book, which I highly recommend – worth a punt, you won’t be disappointed!”

    -Damian Maye, University of Gloucestershire

    “Horses, Power and Place is an intriguing and unique study of a significant intersection of geography and animal studies: the spatialized relationship between humans and horses in Britain and its empire. Ward provides a fascinating exploration of how that relationship has changed over time, as the use of horses transitioned and narrowed from the practical – in transport, agriculture, industry, and war – to their more recent and restricted employment in sporting and leisure activities.  This book is a must-read for anyone interested in equine history.”

    -Allyson N. May, University of Western Ontario

    “Horses, Power, and Place is a long-needed historical geography of all things horse.  Packed with fascinating historical titbits, the book illuminates the role of horsepower – literal and figurative – in the history of human society. Taking the reader on a ride through horse past and present, Ward reveals the uncertain future of the horse in the face of economic, ethical and environmental challenges.  Insightful and entertaining, a must read for academics, students and others interested in how animals have shaped our world.” 

    -Lee-Ann Sutherland, The James Hutton Institute

    “Horses, Power, and Place provides a thought-provoking and holistic approach to thinking about the place horses hold in our society, and how they, in turn, have shaped the places we inhabit. Covering wide-ranging phenomena from early equine domestication through to modern relationships with horses, this book has something for everyone with an interest in the role horses have in our lives.” 

    -Tamzin Furtado, University of Liverpool