The rat has been described as the shadow of the human: from ancient times through today, it has followed man via routes of commerce and conquest to eventually inhabit nearly every part of the world. Rats have a bad reputation—they spread disease, destroy agricultural produce, and thrive in the darkest corners of human habitation—but they have recently found credibility as a major resource for scientific experimentation. Jonathan Burt here traces the fortunes of the rat in history, myth, and culture.
Central to Rat is the history of the relationship between humans and rats and, in particular, the complex human attitudes toward these shrewd creatures. Burt examines why the rat is viewed as more loathsome and verminous than other parasitic animals and considers why humans have had diametrically opposed attitudes about the rat: some cultures greatly admire the rat for its skills, while others consider the rat the scourge of the earth. Burt also draws on a wide range of examples to explore the rat's role in science, culture, and art, from its appearances in children's literature such as The Wind in the Willows to Victorian rat- and dog-baiting pits to its symbolic roles in folklore.
Rat offers an intriguing and richly illustrated study of one of nature's most remarkable creatures and ultimately finds that the rat exists as a perverse totem for the worst excesses of human behavior.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Natural Historians and the Rat
The Hero of Science
Plague and Pollution
Pets Vermin Food
A Legend of the Inquisition
Aelian albino rat associated behaviour Black Death black rat body brain breeding Britain British brown rat bubonic plague cage Charles Waterton Cohn creatures cultural dead destruction developed disease early eaten eating eighteenth century enamel Epidemics Ernst evolution experiments fables fact fanciers Fancy Rat filming fleas Freud Fur and Feather genetic gnawing guided rat Ibid idea India instance Journal killing Laboratory Animals laboratory rats live London Mammal Mary Douglas maze mice mice and rats modern mouse Muridae Myomorpha myth Natural History Nebraska Wesleyan University networks nineteenth century noted number of rats outbreaks parallel period pest Peter Pallas poem poison psychology Quadrupeds rabbits rat fancy rat-catcher rat's rats and mice rats became Rattus remarks rodents scientific scientist seems seventeenth sewers sexual Shengold species spread St Gertrude story teeth Thomas tion traps twentieth century vermin vermin control Waterton Wistar writing
Page 13 - ... consequences of pure instinct— certainly not if they result in identical disasters. Neither rat nor man has achieved social, commercial, or economic stability. This has been, either perfectly or to some extent, achieved by ants and by bees, by some birds, and by some of the fishes in the sea. Man and the rat are merely, so far, the most successful animals of prey. They are utterly destructive of other forms of life. Neither of them is of the slightest earthly use to any other species of living...