The Heretic's Feast: A History of Vegetarianism

Front Cover
UPNE, 1996 - Cooking - 402 pages
In this fascinating and informative story of vegetarianism since prehistoric times, Colin Spencer describes the religious, philosophical, and social aspects of vegetarianism, introducing such prominent and often colorful practitioners as Pythagoras, Ovid, Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Thomas More, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw, Gandhi, and Hitler. Though the word "vegetarian" was not coined until the mid-nineteenth century, the meatless diet has been around for as long as people have. Spencer describes the major movements that shared the doctrine as well as the surprisingly diverse moralities, perspectives, and philosophies that motivated them. He shows that vegetarianism, when not forced on humans by poverty, was often just one element in a radical ideology that repeatedly led to the marginalization of vegetarians in our society. This gracefully written and meticulously researched book presents not only a surprising slice through world history but also an unusual story of dissidence and revolt.

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User Review  - Daniel_Nanavati - LibraryThing

I think the most surprising revelation in this book was the fact that vegetarians were considered politically subversive for so long in the West. The vested interests in killing animals for food were so huge they were considered to be part of what a human being is. Sad. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - le.vert.galant - LibraryThing

Vegetarianism follows a radical path through Western culture: borne in the Orphic traditions inherited by Pythagoras from Ancient Egyptian religion. It flourished within Greek philosophy becoming an ... Read full review


In the Beginning
Pythagoras and His Inheritance
Plato to Porphyry
Early Christianity
Gnostic Sects and the Manicheans
The Renaissance
The Clockwork Universe
The Rise of Humanism
Docks and Dandelions
Sunlight and Sandals
Sentient or Machine?
The Rise of the Vegetarian Cookery Book
A Select Bibliography

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About the author (1996)

Novelist, playwright, and food critic for the Guardian, COLIN SPENCER also writes for film and television. An artist and author of books on food and cookery, he also cultivates flowers, herbs, and oriental vegetables in East Sussex.

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