Blood Sport


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Hunting in Britain since 1066

Emma Griffin

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Nearly a decade of fiercely divisive debate over foxhunting in Britain culminated with passage of the Hunting with Dogs Act of 2004. But the battle over the future of hunting is not yet resolved, and polarizing right-or-wrong debates continue undiminished. This lively book recounts the long and colorful history of hunting in Britain and offers a fresh perspective on today’s conflicts.


Since William the Conqueror declared wild animals royal property and thereby provoked a burning hatred among his subjects, hunting of all kinds has been a source of social conflict in Britain. The sport is deeply entwined with questions of land and power, class divisions, and social mores. Blood Sport explores these large themes, brings them alive with surprising details and vignettes, and considers how hunting traditions have affected British national identity. Bringing the discussion fully up to date, the book concludes with a thought-provoking critique of current hunting controversies.

Emma Griffin is lecturer in history, University of East Anglia. She lives in Nottingham, UK.

"A strikingly rich and subtle social history of hunting. Griffin not only elucidates hidden parts of Britain's past through her engaging and scholarly account, but she also provides a much-needed cultural and political context for today's blood sports debate. This is a book for hunt supporters and saboteurs alike, along with all those interested in the history of the British landscape, monarchy, class relations, and national identity. For as Griffin deftly shows, these have all been vitally shaped by the practice of hunting and the endlessly divisive passion it stirs."—Tristram Hunt, journalist, presenter and author of The English Civil War: At First Hand and Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City

"A highly readable and scholarly account of hunting, showing its immovable place in the history, politics and identity of our country."—Roger Scruton, philosopher, author of England: An Elegy, Animal Rights & Wrongs, On Hunting, and The Meaning of Conservatism

"Emma Griffin's incisively argued and highly entertaining study fills a major gap in the social history of this country."—Professor Tim Blanning, author of The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815

"Not only is her thorough and insightful book an endlessly fascinating piece of cultural history, of great interest even to those who might imagine that hunting is a subject of no relevance, but it's also quite scrupulously unbiased." - James Delingpole, Literary Review

'...[a] serious, intelligent and readable history of blood sport.'  - Jane Shilling, The Sunday Telegraph 'Seven'

'Griffin's book commands admiration because it attempts to be scrupulously fair.  She is no friend of big-bag game shooting, and has no delusions about the demerits of both sides in the contemporary battle about hunting.'  - Max Hastings, The Sunday Times

'Emma Griffin has written a balanced and analytical history.'  - Jane Ridley, The Spectator

'Her thorough research enables Griffin to draw some poignant conclusions.  One is that hunting can be many things -- from a means of obtaining food and clothing to a display of wealth and skill, and utilitarian to recreational -- but ultimately a hunter's actions cannot be removed from the questions of land and power.'  - The Field

" even-handed overview rich in scholarship and ripe in detail at all levels of the social scale."  - Iain Finlayson, Times

"Emma Griffin's forensic account of the history of hunting on these isles is welcome, because its historical perspective and self-imposed boudaries allow her to place a difficult subject in its rightful context, stripping away much of the emotion and prejudice from an activity which has an unparalleled ability to divide opinion."  - Richard Bath, Scotland on Sunday

"As Emma Griffin exposes in her new book, "hunting is every bit as much about land and power as it is about morality."  She explains how hunting as an upper-class sport was imported by William the Conqueror and how the concentration on stag hunting collapsed after the English Civil War and the shrinking of wild spaces in Britain."  - Ian Cawood, Birmingham Post

"In this brilliant work of social history, Griffin takes readers from the Norman Conquest to the 1998 demonstrations in which one quarter million Britons took to the streets to demand that fox-hunting remain legal, and beyond. . . . Excellent breadth, readability, and erudition. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Emma Griffin has written a very useful and readable survey of the history of hunting since medieval times, based upon numerous printed sources. . . . The main theme of the book is the development, from the late sixteenth century, of ethical opposition to hunting and other blood sports."—R.B. Manning, The English Historical Review

“… a well constructed, balanced account of hunting activities and controversies, poaching and the game laws … [provides an] admirably clear context … for detailed regional studies.” - Northern History, Vol. 46

"Blood Sport is not only a scholarly but an entertaining book, which covers enormous ground with deft succinctness." —Edward Short, The Weekly Standard

"[A] well-researched and convincing survery. . . . with a judicious use of a wide range of sources." —Matthew McIntire, The Historian

"Emma Griffin has written a much-needed book. . . . This is a superb study, the best book yet written on hunting in Britain." —Daniel Herman, Winterthur Portfolio

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title from 2008.
ISBN: 9780300145458
Publication Date: February 3, 2009
296 pages, 5 x 7 3/4
32 b/w illus.
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