A History of Britain In 100 Dogs
As the ultimate dog-loving nation, our history is inextricably entwined with that of our dogs. Through history they have sniffed, rolled, shaken and pawed their way to our hearts, and behind almost every great Briton is a faithful hound. This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of Britain from Roman times to the present and looks at our native British breeds and the extraordinary roles they played in society, from providing entertainment to herding livestock to guiding the visually impaired.
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Despite its title and the fact that it is arranged chronologically, A History of Britain in 100 Dogs is primarily about dogs individually, or as members of breeds or other groups, dealt with in 100 short sections. The section about 'Ratters', for example, focuses on the nineteenth century and later, and as much on rat-baiting as on ratting per se, rather than attempting to trace what is known of the domestication of dogs in this role in Britain or the emergence of terriers as a popular type of ratter. It is also not a reference book about dogs (there is no index), nor even an account of all the dogs that could be said to have played a part in the history of Britain in some way (and a number of those which are discussed, such as Dalmatians, are relatively late introductions). Rather, it is a work of anecdotage and entertainment.
Given that, I think it might have been better to arrange the book thematically (say, with a section about the work that particular types of dogs did and how that changed over time). I was also a little disappointed by the irrelevance, to dogs, of some of the early illustrations: it seems odd to discuss two scenes from the Bayeux tapestry and to illustrate it with two different scenes, in which dogs appear only in the margins and are quite difficult to see. A more appropriate scene appears on The History Press's website. But these are quibbles. The later sections are generously and appropriately illustrated, and for the dog lover this is a charming book to dip into - a little treasure house.
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