Horses were key to the colonial economies of southern Africa, buttressing the socio-political order and inspiring contemporary imaginations. Just as they had done in Europe, Asia, the Americas and North Africa, these equine colonisers not only provided power and transportation but also helped transform their new biophysical and social environments. In some ways Riding High is an attempt to chronicle the effects of an inter-species relationship whose significance was vast and lead to major changes in the history of leisure, transportation, trade, warfare, and agriculture. On another level, these stories are simply the adventures of a big, gentle herbivore and a small, rogue primate.
The horses introduced to the southern tip of Africa were both agents and subjects of enduring changes. This book explores their introduction under VOC rule in the mid-seventeenth century, their dissemination into the interior, their acquisition by indigenous groups and their ever-shifting roles. In its relocation to the Cape, the horse of the Dutch empire in southeast Asia experienced a physical transformation over time. Establishing an early breeding stock was fraught with difficulty and horses remained vulnerable in the new and dangerous environment. They had to be nurtured into defending their owners' ambitions: first those of the white settlement and then African and other hybrid social groupings.
The book traces the way horses were adapted by shifting human needs in the nineteenth century. It focuses on their experiences in the South African War, on the cusp of the twentieth century, and highlights how horses remained integral to civic functioning on various levels, replaced with mechanization only after lively debate. They remained useful in certain sectors and linked to totems of social power even in contemporary South Africa.
Riding High reinserts the horse into the broader historical narrative and speculates about what a new kind of history that takes animals seriously might offer us.
Number Of Pages: 256
Published: 7th February 2013
Dimensions (cm): 22.0 x 15.0 x 22.86
Weight (kg): 0.505