Breeds of Empire: The ‘Invention’ of the Horse in Southeast Asia and Southern Africa 1500-1950


Greg Bankoff & Sandra Swart

Ships of empire carried not just merchandise, soldiers and administrators around the globe but also equine genes from as far afield as Europe, Arabia, the Americas, China and Japan. In the process, they introduced horses into new parts of the world. This book explores the ‘invention’ of specific breeds of horse in the context of imperial design and colonial trade routes. Beginning
with a discussion of the Indian Ocean horse trade, it examines the origins and use of the horse within Indonesia and then the introduction, employment and social ‘invention’ of the horse in Thailand, the Philippines and southern Africa.
This volume also touches upon another history, that of horses themselves. Whereas empires are seen as being exclusively human endeavours, horses are viewed both as products of natural selection and the evolution of species and as acculturated (beasts serving a human master). Only today is modern historiography beginning to explore the importance of animals and to discover that they, too, have their own histories independent of human affairs.
This volume, then, takes a small step towards creating a more species- or horse-centric basis to their history. This is a fascinating study that will appeal not only to scholars but also to the broad horse-reading public interested in all things equine.

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Breeds of Empire: The ‘Invention’ of the Horse in Southeast Asia and Southern Africa 1500-1950

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