Beastly London: A History of Animals in the City

Hannah Velten


Horse-drawn cabs rattling down muddy roads, cattle herded through the streets to the Smithfield meat market for slaughter, roosters crowing at the break of dawn—London was once filled with a cacophony of animal noises (and smells). But over the last thirty years, the city seems to have banished animals from its streets. In Beastly London, Hannah Velten uses a wide range of primary sources to explore the complex and changing relationship between Londoners of all classes and their animal neighbors.
Velten travels back in history to describe a time when Londoners shared their homes with pets and livestock—along with a variety of other pests, vermin, and bedbugs; Londoners imported beasts from all corners of the globe for display in their homes, zoos, and parks; and ponies flying in hot air balloons and dancing fleas were considered entertainment. As she shows, London transformed from a city with a mainly exploitative relationship with animals to the birthplace of animal welfare societies and animal rights’ campaigns. Packed with over one hundred illustrations, Beastly London is a revealing look at how animals have been central to the city’s success.

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