Book review: The foxhunting controversy 1781-2004: class and cruelty

Huggins, Mike ORCID logo ORCID: (2013) Book review: The foxhunting controversy 1781-2004: class and cruelty. Sport in History, 33 (3). pp. 402-404.

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Fox hunting and its circumscribed world have for many years attracted fierce debate, and aroused strong emotions and passions. Indeed, The Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports1 was forced to have two entries on hunting the case for and the case against. It has already attracted substantial well-researched monographs from several social historians, including Carr, Itzkowitz, Ridley and Griffin as well as governmental select committee enquiries, many more journalistic studies, Thomas’s work on the pressure-group politics of hunting, memoirs, histories of local hunts, novels, and innumerable polemics from pro- and anti-groups, such as the Countryside Alliance, the League Against Cruel Sports, and the Hunt Saboteurs Association. Other studies such as that by R. W. Hoyle2 usefully set hunting in its broader field sports context. So is there much more to say? In part there is, and May’s book is at its strongest when she opens up new areas of enquiry, rather than summarises earlier work. In the early nineteenth century fox hunting, the pursuit of foxes with packs of foxhounds and usually mounted riders, that ‘peculiar privilege’ of the English, was probably England’s most ‘national’ sport. But as May points out (p. 1), less than two centuries later, the British Labour government introduced 18 separate bills trying to deal with it over its first two terms, spent no less than 700 hours of parliamentary time on the issue, faced down strong Lords’ opposition and ‘countryside’ marches on London, which argued that hunting was an integral part of country life, and finally succeeded in banning the sport under the 2004 Hunting with Dogs Act. Only the Iraq war got anywhere near as much public and parliamentary attention.

1. Tony Collins, John Martin and Wray Vamplew (Eds.), The Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005).
2. R. W. Hoyle (Ed.), Our Hunting Fathers: Field Sports in England After 1850 (Lancaster: Carnegie, 2007).

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Sport in History
Publisher: Taylor & Francis (Routledge) for British Society of Sports History
ISSN: 1746-0271
Departments: Academic Departments > Institute of Arts (IOA) > Humanities
Additional Information: Mike Huggins, University of Cumbria, UK reviews the book 'The Foxhunting Controversy 1781-2004: Class and Cruelty' by Allyson N. May (Ashgate: Farnham, 2013, ISBN 9781409442202).
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 28 Jun 2019 15:51
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2024 11:45


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