The City is More Than Human
The City is More Than Human:
An Animal History of Seattle
Frederick L. Brown, Ph.D.
This book features a wedding gift of chickens, a downtown horse parade, loose cows detained at the city's cattle pound, a runaway red steer, a wandering German shepherd named Caesar, and salmon struggling up through the Ballard Locks. It asks, What does the history of a city look like if we pay attention to animals and their historical roles?
Seattle would not exist without animals. Materially and culturally, animals shaped the area's transformation from the indigenous towns of the early nineteenth century to the livestock-friendly Euro-American town of the later nineteenth century, to the pet-friendly, livestock-averse modern city of the early twentieth century to the paradoxical city of the later twentieth century and beyond -- enacting benevolence toward pets while exploiting distant and hidden livestock and transforming distant animals' habitats ever more intensely.
Human beings are a distinct minority in Seattle, as they are on the planet as a whole. The vast majority of the eyes that have observed the city's changing contours, of the legs that have walked across its landscape, of the mouths that have consumed its bounty belonged not to humans, but to other animals. We may think of cities as quintessentially human landscapes -- the result of human plans and desires, of human prejudices and follies. That they are, in some sense, certainly more than they are the result of chicken plans and desires, or of coyote prejudices and follies. And yet, we cannot understand these places without considering all their residents, without considering the nonhuman animals whom humans enlisted in transforming landscapes, whose presence or absence became markers of progress or backwardness, who took note and advantage of human efforts, who countered or furthered human projects.
- Chapter 1: Beavers, Cougars, and Cattle: Constructing the Town and the Wilderness
Chapter 2: Cows: Closing the Grazing Commons
Chapter 3: Horses: The Rise and Decline of Urban Equine Workers
Chapter 4: Dogs and Cats: Loving Pets in Urban Homes
Chapter 5: Cattle, Pigs, Chickens, and Salmon: Eating Animals on Urban Plates
Past book-related events
- Hal K. Rothman Award from the Western History Association, November 2017, for best Western environmental history.
- Virginia Marie Folkins Award from the Association of King County Historical Organizations, April 2017, for best King County history publication.
What scholars and reviewers have said:
- "Nothing short of pathbreaking. Brown organizes this potentially overwhelming topic into a highly influential study with remarkable grace and concision."
-Thomas Andrews, author of Coyote Valley: Deep History in the High Rockies
- "Deeply moving...Brown has taken a relatively new discipline, that of animal studies, and applied it in an altogether graceful and surprising way, blending elements of history, geography, environmental studies, and sociology into a fresh and sometimes startling interpretation of urban development." -Glenda Pearson, Pacific Northwest Quarterly
- "Brown's approach is innovative, thought provoking, and delightfully insightful." -Hal K. Rothman Book Award committee, Western History Association
- "Brown has written a history that implores us to care about animals as well as humans and to interrogate when, where, how, and why we have and have not done so in the past." -Paul Sutter, author of Driven Wild: How the Fight against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement and Let Us Now Praise Famous Gullies: Providence Canyon and the Soils of the South
- "Historian Frederick L. Brown has written a fascinating account of animals--particularly domesticated animals--in the creation of our city.... Brown makes a compelling case that animals have been central to shaping our physical, economic, and sociological landscapes.... For the Seattle history buff it's a must read; for the urbanist it broadens the sense of what the city is, who it's for, and how critters are partners in shaping urban life." -Knute Berger, Crosscut
- "Seattle is a city of animals...All this and more is vividly chronicled in historian Frederick Brown's 'The City is More than Human: An Animal History of Seattle.'" -Mary Ann Gwinn, Seattle Times
- "Once you have read The City is More Than Human, you may feel that you have been talking with its subjects: beavers, cougars, cattle, cows, horses, dogs, cats, pigs, chickens and salmon." -Paul Dorpat, Seattle Now & Then
- "Frederick Brown's wonderful history of Seattle brings the city's story into conversation with the growing field of animal studies, illustrating the ways in which nonhuman animals of many kinds have been at the center of Seattle's history - often in ways we might find surprising today. Learning about these animal lives can tell us not only how cattle, dogs, and salmon experienced this place, but also how talking about what it means to be an urban animal offers important insights into what it means to be human."
-Coll Thrush, author of Indigenous London: Native Travellers at the Heart of Empire and Native Seattle: Histories from the Crossing-Over Place
- "What is the place of animals in the American city? The answers, as Frederick Brown argues in this inventive book, say as much about being human as they do about the many creatures prowling our streets and sharing our homes. Corralling cows, killing cougars, loving dogs and eating salmon were more than asserting an illusory control over nature. Instead, Brown concludes, such interactions redefined which creatures, human and animal, were allowed to claim Seattle as their own. The City Is More Than Human is an ambitious and important retelling of America's urban past."
-Matthew Klingle, author of Emerald City: An Environmental History of Seattle
- Knute Berger, "How Animals Have Shaped Seattle. And Still Do", Crosscut.com, November 23, 2016.
- Author interview with Diane Horn, on Mind Over Matters, KEXP, November 19, 2016 (click to listen)
- Knute Berger, "The best Northwest nonfiction of 2016," Crosscut.com, December 22, 2016.
- Barbara Lloyd McMichael, "Pondering the History of Human-Animal Interactions," Kitsap Sun, January 12, 2017.
- Paul Dorpat, "Turning a Corner in Ballard," Seattle Times: Pacific NW Magazine, July 20, 2017.
- Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, "The City is More Than Human," Seattle Now and Then Blog, July 22, 2017.
- Author interview with Stephan Hausmann, New Books Network, March 30, 2018. (click to listen)
- Glenda Pearson, book review in Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Winter 2018.
- Mary Ann Gwinn, "From cows roaming Ballard to horses fighting fires, a new book shows dog-friendly Seattle has always been a city of animals," Seattle Times, June 13, 2019.
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Last updated October 2021