Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Human Civilization
© 2006 J. Edward Chamberlin
How do I love thee, O horse? Let me count the ways. J. Edward Chamberlin’s Horse begins with one lonely native American mare separated from her tribe recounting, from long memory, the many centuries that horses and humans have traveled together. Even after moving to more conventional historical narrative, the book remains highly storied, drawing much from art and poetry and never far removed from recollections of Blackfoot, Greek, Chinese, or other horse-related mythology. In terms of history, war and sports predominate, with the scant mention made to an actual workhorse appearing and vanishing in the last chapter like the twinkling of a star. The history itself sits under the shadow of mythology; the author’s claim that chariots were used more to taxi infantry to the battle than as weapons themselves is illustrated with nothing more than The Illiad, and he manages to put the cart before the horse (ho, ho) by referring to Islamic expansion as a reaction to the Crusades. Say again? There’s useful information here – on the evolution of different breeds, saddles, riding styles – but it’s altogether very general. It’s a loving tribute to creatures that inspire awe and have been at the center of human history for thousands of years, but shouldn’ t be approached for too much substantial history.