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The Most Beautiful Conquest of Man?

The Most Beautiful Conquest of Man?

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction The Most Beautiful Conquest of Man?
Source:
Precarious Partners
Author(s):
Kari Weil
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226686400.003.0001

The eighteenth-century, natural historian, Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon declared the horse, “the most beautiful conquest that man has ever made.” By the nineteenth century the beauty of this conquest was called into question as Sunday riders filled the streets, female equestriennes became the hit of the stage and circus halls, and as horse beatings were increasingly visible on the streets of Paris. This Introduction charts the social, cultural and political changes taking place in the horse world and asks who this conquest served and at whose (or what) expense and whose suffering mattered. It provides an overview of intensifying debates over the means and ends of animal domestication (often promoted as a necessary force for progress), and of the shifting lines drawn between breed, race and species, especially as the thoroughbred or “pure-blood” offered proof of the possibility for creating a new, ideal race.

Keywords:   horse, gender, race, class, breed, class, domestication, Buffon

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