Introduction
in Women against cruelty (revised edition)

The introduction sketches out the existing historiography of the nineteenth-century animal protection movement, which evinces many conflicting approaches and shortcomings. In particular, historians have generally failed to appraise women’s key contributions to the movement, and, more generally, to analyse gendered differences in attitudes to animals. Traditions of thought on man’s responsibility to the ‘lower’ species were religiously inspired, but also strongly influenced by social and political factors, and by assumptions about the priority of human interests. They came under scrutiny for the first time when legislation was proposed in the early 1800s to make cruelty to animals, especially bull-baiting, a criminal offence. The resulting debates in the British parliament, dominated by William Windham’s speeches, threw up philosophical difficulties which would haunt animal protectionists for the rest of the century. They also revealed disproportionate female support for protection, and the ridicule that this already attracted.

Women against cruelty (revised edition)

Protection of animals in nineteenth-century Britain

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