40.2mizelle - Creatures of Empire How Domestic Animals...

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Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America Mizelle, Brett. Journal of Social History, Volume 40, Number 2, Winter 2006, pp. 510-513 (Review) Published by George Mason University Press DOI: 10.1353/jsh.2007.0023 For additional information about this article Access Provided by University of California @ Berkeley at 09/18/10 7:21PM GMT http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/jsh/summary/v040/40.2mizelle.html
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510 journal of social history winter 2006 ing quantitative data. Additionally, qualitative evidence is also asked to sup- port unjustifiably broad conclusions. For example, for the author to assume that the lack of serious differences in the language used to describe male and female offences in recognizances proves that a large proportion of petty violence was “ungendered” (66–68) underestimates the impact of formulaic legalistic wording and too readily takes official texts as proof of broader social views. Moreover, the credibility of her challenge to assumptions about gender and “violence” would have been strengthened by more attention to how her analysis of “ungendered” petty violence can be squared with solid evidence of significant gendered differ- ences in more serious violence. The author ultimately seeks to prove that “neither the perpetration nor the prosecution of petty violence was entirely subject to gender limitations” (128). This could be seen as a modest goal, since no historian of any time period has, to my knowledge, ever claimed the complete subjection of violence to gender codes. There are some constructive and intriguing insights in this book, and some basic assumptions about the relationship between gender and violence may indeed be ripe for revision. However, what might have been a careful, in- tricate exploration of the complexities of gender and violence—one based upon a fascinating set of primary sources—is frequently undermined by an incautious use of evidence and an insufficiently differentiated interpretive structure. The Open University J. Carter Wood SECTION 3 CHILDHOOD AND FAMILY Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America. By Virginia DeJohn Anderson (Oxford & New York: Oxford Univer- sity Press, 2004. xiii plus 322 pp. $37.50). Just over thirty years ago, a writer using a pseudonym in this journal parodied the emergence of histories of long-ignored groups. In “Household Pets and Ur- ban Alienation,” Charles Phineas wrote that “It seems brash to suggest that pets become the next ‘fad’ subject in social history, but, after running through various ethnic groups (and now women) historians may need a new toy : : : : So why not pets? Here, clearly, would be the ultimate history of the inarticulate.” As it turns out, however, this parody of the kind of Marxist social history as- sociated with E.P. Thompson—one in which Phineas found that “every gesture of deference, every sign of affection among pets was matched by barely-veiled contempt”—was also oddly prophetic, as our profession has seen the develop-
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40.2mizelle - Creatures of Empire How Domestic Animals...

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