The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times Paperback – 1 Feb 2008
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‘Fascinatingly detailed, luxuriously appointed…elegantly conceived, well written, combining proper scholarship with readability, it is a genuinely revelatory contribution to the history of human ideas.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Extraordinary…Stuart writes with flair and intelligence, and this debut shows that he is destined to be a luminous presence in his literary generation…He might even make some converts to vegetariansim itself.’ A.C. Grayling, Independent on Sunday
‘This is intellectual history at its most scintillating, as passionate and vibrant as any swashbuckling romp or perilous adventure.’ Observer
‘[A] massive and magnificently detailed history of radical vegetarianism…a wonderful book, crammed with original research and written with verve, wit and passion. The most enthralling work of cultural history I have read in years.’ Independent
‘Clearly, a staggering amount of research and dedication has gone into this book and its author displays an extraordinary breadth of knowledge and didactic ability…this makes for fascinating and compelling reading.’ Sunday Times
‘Mr Stuart has a relaxed, semi-anecdotal style which repays both careful engagement and lighter dipping…with the balance of an easy style and comprehensive research, he avoids most of the pitfalls of popular histories in which seeming ephemera take centre stage.’ The Economist
‘This well-written book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to get to grips with the philosophical history of vegetarian debate.’ BBC History Magazine
‘This book is rich in anecdotes of interesting if not altogether sympathetic characters.’ The Spectator
‘Tristram Stuart has certainly done his homework…[he] provides some charming vignettes.’ Catholic Herald
‘Tristram Stuart has written a stimulating intellectual history with extensive bibliography and precise notes. There are also some intriguing illustrations.’ The Tablet--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Tristram Stuart has been a freelance writer for Indian newspapers, a project manager in Kosovo and a prominent critic of the food industry. He has made regular contributions to television documentaries, radio and newspapers on the social and environmental aspects of food. His first book, The Bloodless Revolution-'magnificently detailed and wide-ranging' (New Yorker)-was published in 2007, and Waste in 2009. A graduate of Cambridge University, he lives in England, where he rears pigs, chickens and bees.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although a little like a history text book in places, the book is well researched and is quite academic in nature.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Yet sometimes I feel that Stuart was in some ways blinded by his own hypotheses and unwilling to look at alternative views. Stuart believes that European vegetarianism is rooted in Indian culture. This is not an indefensible view, but his case for it would have been stronger if he had answered some potential objections to such assertions, rather than ignoring them. Furthermore, literally all of European history between Pythagoras and English Revolution is simply missing. It is perfectly reasonable for Mr. Stuart to focus on a particular era, but readers with some preestablished famniliarity with vegetarian history -- a group likely to comprise a significant portion of The Bloodless Revolution's readers -- are likely to ask questions. For instance, why does St. Francis of Assisi not appear once in the entire book? Why is Leonardo da Vinci only mentioned in a quote comparing him to the Indians? Should the Cathars be ignored? It is one thing to focus on a specific era of history -- the English Revolution to the Second World War -- but it is another to leap straight from Pythagoras to Francis Bacon while ignoring virtually all of the intervening millenia. In short, if Stuart wants to emphasis the critical role of Indian influence on European vegetarianism, he should have investigated earlier indigenous European vegetarian movements or ideas and, if the evidence showed them not to be influential, shown us such evidence, rather than ignoring the whole question.
Second, Stuart often magnifies a dichotomy between animal welfare activists who called for less brutal treatment of domesticated animals and vegetarians who opposed meat consumption. While it is certainly true that there were and are numerous animal welfare activists who sought the reform, rather than abolition, of meat consumption (and vegetarians indifferent to animal welfare), Stuart seems to imply that these were each others' chief opponents. There is little mention of the arguments of those who opposed both animal welfarists and vegetarians. From my impression, it seems that Stuart himself happens to be an animal welfarist who has no problems with meat consumption so long as the animals involved are treated humanely. There is nothing wrong with this viewpoint, but sometimes I wonder whether Stuart's emphasis on welfarists as opponents, rather than allies, of vegetarians, is an attempt to defend his own position against worries about the persuasiveness of ethical vegetarian arguments, and whether Stuart ignores most views less sympathetic to animals than welfarism or vegetarianism because he personally finds them so unpersuasive that he feels they needn't be covered.
Lastly, while Stuart has a brilliant eye for detail and color, he has little time for facts or demographics. Such information may be hard to come by, but could there have been more information? For example, could there be some way of estimating the fraction of vegetarians in the British population from 1600 to modern times? Could we find out the average meat consumption per capita over time? I did not pick this up expecting a book heavy on statistics or demographics, but I nonetheless found the absence of even minimal attention to such matters disappointing.
Nonetheless, The Bloodless Revolution is a thoroughly researched, well-written, and original work. It provides a valuable resource to anyone interested in the history of vegetarianism in the modern era. I found it quite an enjoyable read, and the detailed portraits of the individuals, from meticulous scientists to enthusiastic religious cranks, were all a pleasure to read. I took great pleasure in reading it over several weeks.
Though the author comes up eventually in favor of cutting back on meat products for ecological reasons, it is my impression is not generally sympathetic to vegetarians. The book largely focuses on the hacks and crazies that adopted vegetarianism between 1600-1800. Gandhi gets a scarce few pages.
Second, this is A cultural history of vegetarianism, specifically the relationship between western europe and India. His thesis is that India was largely responsible for transplanting many strands of vegetarianism into Europe, specifically England and a few French philosophers. This very well may be true, but a more expansive survey would have made for a more interesting book. I got very bogged down in the first few chapters.
All these negatives included, it is a well researched, reasonably well written book on a narrow topic.
This book comes as close as any to providing the explanation that I have sought. Although I am not a professional historian or philosopher, I have long had an avid interest in these disciplines. I strongly believe in that age-old adage that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. However limited my perspective may be, I nonetheless find this book by Tristram Stuart to be an incredible presentation of some events and ideas that really go a long way to help provide an answer to my question.
I am still awed by the depth and sophistication of knowledge that existed among leading scholars and medical people in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries concerning the use of a plant-based diet. I am sure that it is possible to quibble about Stuart's selection and interpretation of references, as is true of almost any historical account. Nonetheless, I am impressed with these references, not only because of their number, but also because of Stuart's liberal use of direct quotations--these can be easily confirmed, if necessary. But, more to the point, I found that so many of the views of these early writers, who had limited access to empirical data, to be remarkably well confirmed with the highly technical findings gathered in recent years. With my son, Tom, we write about these findings in our own book, "The China Study. Startling Implications of Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health".
There are many other impressive and largely unknown findings told in this book. I especially enjoyed the views on diet and health of these writers that were at the core of philosophical discussions that were to shape Renaissance thinking, especially on matters that led to political reform.
I highly recommend this book--it is full of enormously impressive content that says so much about what we are now experiencing in this field. Tristram Stuart is a remarkably capable young writer and I very much hope that he will continue writing more such material!
In the meanwhile, we now desperately need some of the courage and creativity of these early writers--a revolution in health could hardly be more needed. Thank you, Tristram Stuart, for sharing your thoughts.
Stuart writes intellectual history in the old-fashioned graceful way of a Basil Wiley, Keith Thomas, or Carolyn Merchant. He excels at showing the cultural, economic, moral, and religious influences from Francis Bacon through the nineteenth century romantic period on attitudes towards a meatless diet. I was especially intrigued to discover that some of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century utilitarians and economists regarded vegetarianism as a means of overcoming the Malthusian disparity between population and resources--a very forward-looking strategy indeed. Stuart's epilogue, in which he discusses the early twentieth-century's "post-Rousseauist" back-to-nature movement that inspired folks as diverse as Gandhi and Hitler, is fascinating. I hope that it serves as the seed for Stuart's next book.
All in all, highly recommended for those interested in the history and culture of vegetarianism as well as those interested in modern British intellectual history. For collections of some of the primary sources referred to by Stuart, the reader may wish to consult Ethical Vegetarianism from Pythagoras to Peter Singer and Religious Vegetarianism from Hesiod to the Dalai Lama.
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