Animals, and our ever-changing relationships with them, have left an indelible mark on human history. From the dawn of our existence, animals and humans have been constantly redefining their relationships with one another, and entire civilizations have risen and fallen upon this curious bond we share with our fellow fauna.
Brian Fagan unfolds this fascinating story from the first wolf who wandered into our prehistoric ancestors' camp and found companionship to empires built on the backs of horses, donkeys, and camels to the industrial age, when some animals became commodities, often brutally exploited, and others became pets, nurtured and pampered, sometimes to absurd extremes. Through an in-depth analysis of six truly transformative human-animal relationships, Fagan shows how our habits and our very way of life were considerably and irreversibly altered by our intimate bonds with animals. Among other stories, Fagan explores how herding changed human behavior; how the humble donkey helped launch the process of globalization; and how the horse carried a hearty band of nomads across the world and toppled the emperor of China.
With characteristic care and penetrating insight, Fagan reveals the profound influence that animals have exercised on human history and how, in fact, they often drove it.
©2015 Brian Fagan (P)2015 Audible, Inc.
The beginning was heavy on conjecture and imagined stories of how things might have happened with a liberal sprinkling of standard stereotypes of the noble savage, which was annoying but forgivable since the record is more than a little space that far back.
The middle was pretty good. I learned quite a bit about some of the less common animals like camels, but most of the material is found in other books I've read.
The end just got weird. He starts moralizing about how abhorrent modern uses of animals are, despite having romanticized some earlier uses it at least give fairer treatment to abuse of animals in past eras. Seems to have bought the animal rights narratives about how animals are used today in agriculture and science without bothering to verify the accuracy of their claims (which as an Animal Scientist I can assure you are strongly distorted where not actually flat out wrong).
Overall I was disappointed by the entire experience because the annoyances at the beginning and the heavy handed moralizing at the far out weigh the benefits of the middle to me.
This book disappoints for the lack of depth, and for the constant repetition of generic statements, like "The closeness that developed of this or that animal to human partners impacted the lives and cultures of human beings." For each animal, few concrete examples of the transformational influence or evidence of it in archaeology is provided. The book needs an editor, and more information so it isn't just a superficial summary of better treatments, like "Guns, Germs and Steel".
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