VegHist Ep 13: The Vegetarians. [FIXED] Abolitionism, colonialism, and Victorian reformers. With Julia Twigg and Bhaskar Chakraborty. In London
In the late nineteenth century, the new vegetarian movement is intertwined with other struggles – including Victorian reformers, the Indian reaction to British colonialism, and most importantly, slavery.
Episode 13: The Vegetarians
After their foundation in 1847 and 1850, the vegetarian societies in Britain and America rose swiftly faced new challenges.
Dr Adam Shprintzen, author of the history of US vegetarianism “Vegetarian Crusade, tells Ian how the American Vegetarian Society poured its energies into an anti-slavery vegetarian settlement in the Wild West. And how its founder, Englishman Henry Clubb, ultimately took a bullet for the union in the Civil War.
Under British rule, Hindu vegetarianism faced a mix of threat and opportunity. In India, Ian meets historians DN Jha, Burton Cleetus, and Bhaskar Chakraborty, who explain how, faced with rule by distant Christians, vegetarianism became more important as a marker of caste and identity.
Ian also sets off on a cycle tour of vegetarian Victorian London, and talks to the first modern academic to study vegetarian history – Dr Julia Twigg.
VegHist Ep 12: Radicals & Romantics. Bible Christians, Grahamites, and Transcendentalists. With Adam Shprintzen and Derek Antrobus; at Deerfields, Fruitlands, and Salford
In the 1800s, overlapping circles of utopians, mystics, and romantics in both Europe and America develop arguments against meat until “vegetarianism” finally becomes a real movement.
Episode 12: Radicals & Romantics
In the aftermath of the American and French revolutions, the sects and philosophies that embrace a “vegetable diet” multiply – from ecstatic cult to puritan crusades, to utopian community to public-spirited congregation. No longer are they isolated groups – they connect with each other in books, magazines, and letters. Until a single word catches on – “vegetarianism”.
In the United States of America, Ian discovers the the vegetarian sword and shoes of a 1790s “free love” vegetarian sect in a local Massachusetts museum, and visits the failed vegan commune where Louisa May “Little Women” Alcott lived as a child.
And in Salford, NW England, he walks in the footsteps of a nineteenth century vegetarian church, with local historian Derek Antrobus and the vegetarian history specialist Dr Samantha Calvert.
It’s a story that also takes in the French bohemian “cult of the bearded men”, the man who invented the modern idea of Robin Hood, the woman who invented Frankenstein and his creature, Sylvester Graham, and, finally, the creation of modern vegetarianism.
VegHist Ep 11: Enlightenment. Colonial India, Voltaire, Rousseau, and the French Revolution. With Partha Chatterjee, Christophe Martin, and Renan Larue; at the Black Hole of Calcutta, and Musée Rousseau Montmerency
The philosophers of Paris discuss reports of Indian vegetarianism, question the morality of eating animals, and inspire radicals who preach vegetarianism from the barricades of the French revolution.
Episode 11: Enlightenment
Ian traces a winding path of vegetarian inspiration from the personal diary of an Indian vegetarian working for the French, to the darkest corner of British imperial propaganda, to the Enlightenment’s favourite Paris café, to a rural retreat that inspired a social revolution, and to the squares where citizens plotted a real one.
VegHist Ep 10: Revolution. English civil war, diet gurus, and the poetry of Sensibility. With Tristram Stuart and Anita Guerrini; at the Ahmedabad Panjrapole
When printing lets ordinary people access a world of ideas, including Indian vegetarianism, some European radicals and diet gurus begin to oppose meat-eating.
Episode 10: Revolution
In England, the 1600s are a century of revolution. The artisans and yeomanry are picking up books – and the New Model Army is picking up pikes and muskets to turn the world upside down.
Ian meets Dr Ariel Hessayon, a lecturer in the radicals of the English Civil War at a Thameside pub that was there during the 1600s, to discover tabloid scares and firebrand sermons about people who ate only bread, and water and fruit.
In Ahmedabad, India, he visits the kind of animal hospital that astounded European travellers. And he hears from author Tristram Stuart about the impact stories of India had on Europeans, and how they shook Christendom’s moral certainty.
Dr Anita Guerrini researches the first vegetarian diet gurus, whose books about food and medicine interpreted the intellectuals of the Republic of Letters for everyone else. And she tells Ian about the secret religion of Sir Isaac Newton.
Ancient philosophers inspire Renaissance thinkers to challenge the old hierarchy of man over beast.
Episode 9: Renaissance
Old medieval certainties are cracking under the combined assault of new sciences and rediscovered classics. It’s an age when “natural philosophers” combine scientific discovery with philosophical treatises, and when their Republic of Letters transcends political boundaries in the name of free thought.
It’s the age of Descartes, whose mechanical philosophy dismisses animals as “automatons”. But rivals like Gassendi suggest that animals have more in common with humans than he thinks. Ian traces the trail from Paris to the Mughal Court and back to the medical schools of the Enlightenment. He discovers the forgotten story of how Christian mythology, early anatomy, classical thinkers, and Indian medicine came together in respected medical schools that taught students to prescribe a vegetable diet.
VegHist Ep 8: Contacts. Indian Sufism, Bhakti, Akbar, Portuguese Christianity, and Gaudiya Vaishnavism
When conquerors who profess Islam or Christianity rule over Indian vegetarians, the conversations about food ethics go both ways.
Episode 8: Contacts
Ian discovers the ecstatic dancing and singing shared by Sufis and Hindus – including westerners singing Hare Krishna in London’s main shopping street. In Delhi, he finds out about the inquisition that started with European antisemitism and ended with Indians being forced to eat beef.
And in the royal city of Agra, he visits a shrine built to commemorate a conversation about religion and vegetarianism between a Jain saint and the Mughal emperor Akbar. He uncovers the fascinating story of this heretic emperor who advocated vegetarianism.
At the halfway point of this 15-part history of vegetarianism, the traditions of East and West come together. From hereon, it’s all one story.