“Truth and folklore about bird life, and man’s equal relationship with birds, are dissected in detail in this handsome new book by Roy and Lesley Adkins,” said Roland White. . Sunday Times.
While their beauty always amazes us, we also tend to see birds as harbingers of bad luck – and “subject them to terrible cruelty”. Until it was banned in the mid-19th century, cockfighting was Britain’s “most popular national sport”. Before that, other even worse games were played – such as “Throw at the rooster” (in which birds are “thrown to death”) and “Mutter a sparrow.” (involving biting on the head of a live sparrow).
The book makes clear how spectacular birds once were, says Christopher Hart in Daily mail. “In living memory, London has tens of thousands of sparrows and starlings” – while today there are only a few “wild pigeons”.
While this is sad, Adkins claims there are grounds for optimism: “awareness of the natural world is evolving rapidly,” they wrote. Collectively, this is “a wonderful piece of original social history”.
Little, Brown 496pp £25; The Week Bookshop £19.99
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https://www.theweek.co.uk/arts-life/culture/books/955481/when-there-were-birds-roy-lesley-adkins When There Were Birds by Roy and Lesley Adkins – what the critics are saying