VegHist Ep 13: The Vegetarians. 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.

Play or download (58MB MP3 41min) (via iTunes) or read transcript



*I couldn’t track down issues of the Truth Tester published that late, so I do wonder if it’s possible that Richard Cubeville made a mistake over the name of the magazine; but he’s been delving into the Vegetarian Society archives and I haven’t. The 1840s and 1850s yielded a confusing array of vegetarian periodicals with the same few overlapping writers and even overlapping titles (“The Truth Tester, Temperance Advocate, and Healthian Journal” being three journals merged together, for example) which doesn’t make citation easier.

Production Diary

Man with cap, bike, and microphones

The London cycle tour setup

This is the rig I used for the cycle tour around London. If the white object poking out of the basket looks a lot like a cat scratching post, that’s because it is – it’s the only appropriately sized object in the flat with a thread that fitted my microphone mount. Mazzy has multiple scratching posts, so she wasn’t deprived.

From left to right, the microphones are:

  • covered by a grey fuzz windshield, the portable audio recorder. This was to pick up ambient noise, and was held in place by string and elastic to hopefully not be shake too much. (This only partially worked: I couldn’t use most tape of me cycling because of the noise).
  • a lapel mic, so that you can hear what I say whilst cycling
  • an SM58 mic, so that I can talk to others and get better sound quality myself when stationary


The theme music is by Robb Masters. Actuality of West Ham United Supporters CC-BY Hooger WS; and Civil War songs sung by the US Army Band (and hence public domain).

The cover picture is a picture of a set of vegetarian magazines from around the world taken from “Fifty Years of Food Reform”.

Featuring Harish Bhimani as Mohandas K Gandhi.

Other parts were played by Chetan Pathak, Matthew Arenson, Ian Russell, Amy Saul, and Orna Klement.

The montage of international vegetarian society foundings also included Jordi Casamitjana, Yuna Sparkle, and Adam Cardilini of VeganSci podcast.

This episode was originally broadcast on Resonance 104.4FM on April 4th. Because I had a hoarse voice at the time, I have re-recorded my narration. This is also a fixed re-post, after it was originally posted with a link to episode 9 (HT Russ Wesp).


Forward, Charles W. 1898. Fifty Years of Food Reform: A History of the Vegetarian Movement in England. London: Ideal Pub. Union.
Eric Reinders. 2004. “Blessed Are the Meat-Eaters.” In Borrowed Gods and Foreign Bodies : Christian Missionaries Imagine Chinese Religion, 146–69. Berkeley : University of California Press.
Silver-Isenstadt, Jean L. 2002. Shameless: The Visionary Life of Mary Gove Nichols.
Gregory, James. 2014. “Vegetarianism as an International Movement, c.1840–1915.”
Calvert, Samantha Jane. 2013. “Eden’s Diet: Christianity and Vegetarianism 1809-2009.” Birmingham: University of Birmingham.
Cubesville, Richard. 2016. The Victorian Vegan. Manchester: Cubesville.
Barua, A. 2015. Debating “Conversion” in Hinduism and Christianity. Routledge Hindu Studies Series. Taylor & Francis.
Twigg, Julia. 2001. “The Vegetarian Movement in England, 1847-1981: With Particular Reference to Its Ideology.”
Shprintzen, Adam D. 2015. The Vegetarian Crusade: The Rise of an American Reform Movement, 1817-1921. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.
Guha, Ramachandra. 2013. Gandhi before India.
Adcock, C. S. 2010. “Sacred Cows and Secular History: Cow Protection Debates in Colonial North India.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 30 (2): 297–311.
Reinders, Eric Robert. 2004. Borrowed Gods and Foreign Bodies: Christian Missionaries Imagine Chinese Religion. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Lodrick, Deryck O. 1981. Sacred Cows, Sacred Places: Origins and Survivals of Animal Homes in India. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Jha, D. N. 2002. The Myth of the Holy Cow. London; New York: Verso.
Bloch, Esther, Marianne Keppens, and Rajaram Hegde. 2009. Rethinking Religion in India: The Colonial Construction of Hinduism. Routledge.
Goossaert, Vincent. 2006. “1898: The Beginning of the End for Chinese Religion?” The Journal of Asian Studies 65 (02): 307–35.
Evans, Brett. 2013. “McJimsey Award Winner: Ideologies of the Shri Meenakshi Goushala: Hindu and Jain Motivations for a Madurai Cow Home.” ASIANetwork Exchange: A Journal for Asian Studies in the Liberal Arts 20 (2).

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About Ian

London. Formerly known as New Media. Vegan since 1992.

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