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Welcome to the Industrial World…


A world where horses lost their monopoly position.

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The horse in history

Many thousand years ago, the horse accompanied men day after day. A long domestication was necessary to make the horse a faithful and useful animal. And of course, it became essential to certain tasks: transport, farming, wars, crafts and so on. In fact, its strength was one of its biggest assets.

Here it is at war, ready to fight the enemies.
At first, on the Cauldron of Gundestrup, an invaluable Danish testimony of the second century BC.


Then, in the Heraldic of the Order of the Golden Fleece in the fifteenth century.


But the War is far from being its unique skill: maybe the most popular, but we shall study through other points of view.

We have to admit that the horse was essential to the human evolution; it is moreover why many civilizations venerated it. Let us think of the Celtic Goddess Epona.
In fact, many Gallic peoples liked representing it on their coins. For example, a coin of Parisii during the first century.

Nevertheless, we shall consider the moment when the horse lost gradually these statuses, through several articles, photos and videos. This long period, which continues nowadays, corresponds to the changes led by the Industrial Revolution.

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What is the Industrial Revolution ? Why a steam engine ?

Everybody knows what the Industrial Revolution is and I invite you to explore this website ( to remember some details.

In our case, the important point is about the technological changes brought by this Revolution. In fact, it is difficult to talk about a Revolution (the subject is well known by Maurice Daumas, Le cheval de César ou le mythe des Révolutions techniques, 1991) : the modifications were made gradually with improvements of former techniques and their new adaptations.

But, when the steam engine began to be well diffused, it profoundly transformed the way of working and particularly the resort to animals.

Let us see this interesting video : Steam engine

So, to use steam engine, you need a new raw material : coal.

I would like to focus on a book of Emma Griffin, A short history of the British Industrial Revolution, 2010, especially the chapter 7 about “Coal : the key to the British Industrial Revolution” (p. 105-125)

The Victorian imagination allowed negative aspects and images of the Industrial Revolution : cityscapes blighted by coal-dust and smog, railways puffing out their black smoke, works of women and children in deeply buried coal mines etc. But the coal was fundamental to make for a modern civilization.

Around 1700, demographic and industrial increases entered in competition to use natural ressources. The population needed land to cultivate crops for food and trees for firewood, but industry wanted the same land to grow timber to fuel the furnaces upon which production depended. It is what Tony Wrigley called as an “organic economy”, opposed to an “inorganic” one.

In the « organic economy », all energy needs for both the people and manufacturing are derived from organic matter alone. It had undoubtedly prospered at certain points in history, but as population and economy both depended upon organic matter, the growth of one was limited by the other.

In the second one, the industrial economy used different raw materials and fossil fuels in particular. When industry began to burn coal rather than wood and to dig under the soil, it was possible to save several millions of acres of land which would be required to grow timber. Wrigley has suggested that the output of the British coal industry in 1800 (15 million tons) provided the equivalent energy supplied by about 15 million acres of land. By exploiting her coal reserve, Britain broke free from the constraints of the organic economy and the conflict between human needs and industrial production was broken…this pivotal role was played by coal.

In fact, the production and the consumption of coal in Great Britain increased during the 18th century and especially the 19th one. There were, of course, many alternatives to coal : muscle power of humans or animals, wind, water or trees. But, by the early 18th, coal was more important than the other.

Industrial production, coal consumption, iron production and development of steam engine contributed to modify the society.

Newcomen invented the steam pump in 1712, which was used to pump water in much larger quantities and more profoundly in coal mines. Watt invented the “double acting rotative engine” in 1784, which could transmit power on both the down and the upstroke and convert it into circular motion. These ameliorations replaced the animal force in the mines or the waterwheels in the textile industry.


Here is a double water wheel (Newcomen steam engine) : it is interesting to notice that the engine doesn’t entirely replaced the work of the horse, which carries the buckets of water away from the surface.

Furthermore, it was an important transformation of the transport with the railways. In 1700, Britain’s waterways played a pivotal role in the movement of industrial goods. But making canals took a long time and moving the ships by horses was boring : horses needed to be fed in lands reserved for fodder. During the 19th century, steam locomotives and railway tracks facilitated and improved the transport.

Finally, key industries (mining, iron-making, textiles and transport) abandoned their reliance on horses, charcoal and water and switched to coal instead.

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The horse in brewery…

Nevertheless, it is difficult to see the end of the horses work in the Industrial Revolution. First, the Industrial Revolution was a long period which began at different times according to the countries. Then, horses are still very useful nowadays. So, we may not see a break but different evolutions in consideration of countries or human activities.

I propose a reflection around the article of Thomas Almeroth-Williams, “The brewery horse and the importance of equine power in Hanoverian London” in the periodical Urban History, 40, 3, p. 416-441 (2013).

In London, brewing was one of the most food and drink manufacturing sector during our period. Between the 1720s and 1790s, the total number of breweries fluctuated between 140 and 180. The author proposes to examine some sources of the biggest breweries as Thrale-Barclay Perkins, Whitbread, Truman etc. For example, in 1815, the production of Barclay Perkins at their Southwark site surmounted 300.000 barrels of beer still it was of 100.000 barrels in 1776.

By examining the brewer’s inventories, he noticed the importance of horses. Peter Mathias, a British economic historian, calculated that a trade of between 60.000 and 100.000 barrels would require 50-60 horses, rising to 150 for 300.000 barrels.


Truman brewery horse stock, 1790-1835

In fact, we need to differentiate mill-horses and dray-horses.

The mill-horse made turn the mill to crush grains, go up bags and pump water. It has been almost entirely omitted from the history of brewing because of its little glamour image: hidden from public, it was depicted as a forlorn ex-racer, blind, old, lean and feeble. However, the mill-horse was indispensable to the brewery until it was replaced gradually by steam engine. In the biggest breweries, the triumph of steam marked the age of the giant dray-horse.

By using steam engines, the production of breweries kept increasing. And to distribute all this beer, brewers need more and more dray-horses. It was seen as an impressive beast, appearing to combine great strength with an intelligent understanding of its role. It was an animal of prestige. These horses could haul heavy carts for more than 12 hours a day. It could memorize a work routine and perform it with little or no supervision. In fact, the improvements in nutrition and stable care, besides the selections of breeding, contributed to its strength: at the end of the 18th century, three nutritionally rich foodstuffs (clover, beans and oats) had been added to hay; particular care was taken to protect the hooves.


George Garrard, Whitbread’s brewery in Chiswell Street (aquatint, 1792)

In conclusion, this example shows both the importance of horses in the industry after the 18th century and the complex relationship between men and animals, globally the human interaction with animals in the city. Should we not forget their urban nuisances or their natural recalcitrance provoking traffic jams and accidents?

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And horses are always here

Even if we can think horse is an animal of an ancient world, we have to admit that it is always here, helping humans or participating in various competitions.

The Industrial Revolution has never made it disappear from the human activity and still at the beginning of the 20th century, horses were part of the society.

I propose some photographies extracted from the archives of Douai ( which show it in the life of “douaisiens” around the beginning of 20th century.


AMD 8Fi258 : carts in the « Petite Place ». Some of them are sleighed by horses, even one by a dog.



AMD 8Fi7 : « Place d’Armes » during a market day.



AMD 8Fi219 : « Rue Saint Jacques », a cart and a tramway.



AMD 19Fi418 : Stables and drinking trough of the barracks Corbineau.



AMD 19Fi307 : Stables of the 15th regiment of artillery of the barracks of Caux.



AMD 8Fi682 : German troops on horses between 1914 and 1918.

Finally, a last picture shows the nobility of the horse during a ceremonial of the Royal Guarding in London (July 2009).

garde royale

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BBC news : the world’s biggest equine sculptures!

The Kelpies: two big horse heads built in Scotland to promote the Helix Project…a way to attract tourists around the digging of a new big canal.
But why horses?
Because of the past! And the tradition of working horses in Scotland, for example the time when horses pulled barges along canals…

BBC news :

Youtube video :

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Horses : a way of defending an ideal!

« Horses were acquired, adopted by Native people in North America. Beginning in the early 17th century and the […] from the Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico, when it’s today New Mexico in 1680, against a Spanish garrison and a Pueblo ride the Spanish horses and horses quickly were adapted in spread and were very prolific riders in an empirement (?)  which they had fortunely no natural enemies. And we know that, by the 1760s-1770s, tribes union in the pacific North West, some of them […Spurs…] and others had horses and were actively riding horses [solactebly] to build up animals the well most support to them. »