The ‘Roots’ of Reform: Vegetarianism and the British Left, c.1790-1900
Supervisor: Dr Helen Cowie
My thesis explores the role of the vegetarian/vegan diet within leftist thought from the period of the French Revolution to the socialist revival of the late nineteenth century, examining the beliefs, writings and activities of those who identified it as a vital element of a larger transformative radical agenda.
Such figures included the ‘Anglo-Jacobin’ revolutionary John Oswald, the radical poet Percy Shelley, the fin-de-siècle socialist Henry Salt, the suffragette Charlotte Despard and the early gay rights activist Edward Carpenter, amongst others.
Centrally, the thesis illuminates the intellectual composition and development of this form of thought – ultimately based upon the concept that all varieties of violence and oppression are interconnected and interdependent and thus that any emancipation must necessarily be all-encompassing, inclusive of both humans and non-human animals – across the changing context of the period c.1790-1900, paying particular attention to its connections with late eighteenth-century radicalism, Romanticism, utopian socialism, libertarian socialism, anarchism and feminism. It also assesses its place within the broader histories of both the Left and animal advocacy and demonstrates how it established an enduring agenda relevant to present-day political, ethical and environmental discourses.
My wider research interests are based around the history of the British Left – especially libertarian socialism/left-libertarianism and the politics of diet and daily life (including feminist and ecological critiques), as well as animal studies and the history of animals/the human-animal relationship, through which I also explore ideas regarding ‘natural’ and social hierarchy, class, race, gender, nationalism and imperialism.
My current research is funded by WRoCAH.