This is a fantastic blog post warning of the perils that lie in wait for the unwary historian. Indeed, we could argue that The Great War was being mythologised even as it was happening. This is just such an example, and beautifully illustrates how events become history, and how history transforms over time. Especially in memory and in the public consciousness.
The image above is frequently circulated on social media, usually accompanied with a caption such as ‘1916 – soldiers pay tribute to the horses who died in the Great War’ which, whilst a lovely idea, is a bit of duff history I’m afraid. I’m fed up of seeing it do the rounds, so thought I’d explain a little about the real story behind the photo…
The photo is actually part of a series of shots taken by Michigan photographer, Almeron Newman. Newman was born in Portland in 1875 and began professionally taking photos in 1899. By 1918 he was living in New Mexico, where he registered for the draft for the First World War. Newman had developed a reputation as a specialist in panoramic and forced perspective photography, which suited the fashion at the time for ‘living photography’ – the technique of using people to create scenes and objects. In…
There is still time to submit an abstract to the Equine Cultures in Transition Conference – Past, Present and Future Challenges (deadline: January 31). This conference will be held June 16–18 at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala and the Swedish Equestrian Centre of Excellence at Strömsholm, Sweden. From the conference website: “Questions […]
Above: The group after the tour of the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center The second Equine History Conference (#EqHist2019) brought together a fantastic group of scholars Nov. 13–15, 2019 at Cal Poly Pomona (see final program). Hosted by the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library, the event opened with a welcome from Emma Gibson, Interim Dean of […]
The soldier-horse relationship was nurtured by The British Army because it made the soldier and his horse into an effective fighting unit. Soldiers and their Horses explores a complex relationship forged between horses and humans in extreme conditions. As both a social history of Britain in the early twentieth century and a history of the British Army, Soldiers and their Horses reconciles the hard pragmatism of war with the imaginative and emotional. By carefully overlapping the civilian and the military, by juxtaposing “sense” and “sentimentality,” and by considering institutional policy alongside individual experience, the soldier and his horse are re-instated as co-participators in The Great War. Soldiers and their Horses provides a valuable contribution to current thinking about the role of horses in history.
I am excited to announce that I have been invited to speak at the forthcoming Equestrian History Conference at Cal-Poly Pomona, November 2019. My paper is entitled: ‘Most Frightful People’ – How Mules Earned their Names in The Great War’. I am particularly looking forward to meeting Sandra Swart, Professor of History at Stellenbosch University, and author of Riding High: Horses, Humans and History in South Africa, Wits University Press, 2010.
This week I am guest writer on Eland Lodge Equestrian’s new blog site. Eland are marking the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles – June 28th 2019 – with my short piece about war horses.
“On 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. The British Army of 1914 was the most mechanised of all the army’s involved, but it still needed horses – and this demand only increased as the War progressed. When war was declared, the British Army immediately set about mobilizing its equine resources.”
Today I thought I’d share this link to the BBC’s brilliant TV series The Queen’s Cavalry. I heartily recommend watching the entire episode – and indeed the whole series. I’ve recently been writing about recruits’ experiences of learning to ride in the Army Riding Schools during The Great War, and was struck (not for the first time) by how similar these modern soldiers’ experiences are to those of men over one hundred years ago. From the Riding Instructor Sergeant’s brilliant observations: “Are you sure that’s the right way round?” To the quite literal ‘ups and downs’ of Riding School. Absolutely brilliant. A reminder that horses are certainly not ‘hairy motorbikes’ (to quote myself!) and that learning to ride is not easy.