University of Leicester
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Feeding the city: zooarchaeological perspectives on urban provisioning and consumption behaviours in post-medieval England (AD1500 - AD1900)

posted on 2016-07-05, 12:48 authored by Rebecca Louise Gordon
Zooarchaeological enquiry of animals and their products in the post-medieval period has largely been disregarded in British archaeology. Yet, there is multitude of ways in which animals can inform upon the profound social and economic changes that took place during this era. This research reveals how fruitful the study of post-medieval animals can be in improving our understanding of: the meat trade; agricultural economies; urban history; industries; livestock ‘improvement’; urban culture; and food consumption in England. The thesis explores the transformations in the production and consumption of animals and animal products by drawing upon primary and secondary faunal data and historical accounts. Primary investigations of animal bones excavated from Chester were analysed along with secondary faunal data from the city, in order to undertake a detailed zooarchaeological analysis of an urban centre, and to consider the potential challenges of undertaking post-medieval faunal analyses. Zooarchaeological data from urban sites in England were also sourced from grey literature and published reports to conduct a regional review of animal bones from the post-medieval period. These investigations showed that innovations in agriculture and the industrialisation of food production had a considerable effect on the size and shape of livestock, which coincided with the introduction of imported breeds and morphotypes. Animals provisioned to towns and cities reflected regional husbandry practices as well as urban supply and demand for various meat and animal products for consumption, crafts and industries. The diversity of wild mammals and birds on domestic sites demonstrated the increasing wealth generated in industrial Britain and the emergent middle classes’ desire to emulate elite tastes. Other evidence points to the environmental repercussions that hunting, urban expansion and industrialisation had on the proportion of wild species.



Thomas, Richard; Tarlow, Sarah

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of Archaeology and Ancient History

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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