The Bloodless Revolution: Radical Vegetarians and the Discovery of India

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9780007128921: The Bloodless Revolution: Radical Vegetarians and the Discovery of India

In the 1600s, European travellers discovered Indian vegetarianism. Western culture was changed forever…

When early travellers returned from India with news of the country’s vegetarians, they triggered a crisis in the European conscience. This panoramic tale recounts the explosive results of an enduring cultural exchange between East and West and tells of puritanical insurgents, Hinduphiles, scientists and philosophers who embraced a radical agenda of reform. These visionaries dissented from the entrenched custom of meat-eating, and sought to overthrow a rapacious consumer society. Their legacy is apparent even today.

‘The Bloodless Revolution’ is a grand history made up by interlocking biographies of extraordinary figures, from the English Civil War to the era of Romanticism and beyond. It is filled with stories of spectacular adventure in India and subversive scientific controversies carved out in a Europe at the dawn of the modern age. Accounts of Thomas Tryon's Hindu vegetarian society in 17th-century London are echoed by later ‘British Brahmins’ such as John Zephaniah Holwell, once Governor of Calcutta, who concocted his own half-Hindu, half-Christian religion. Whilst Revolution raged in France, East India Company men John Stewart and John Oswald returned home armed to the teeth with the animal-friendly tenets of Hinduism. Dr George Cheyne, situated at the heart of Enlightenment medicine, brought scientific clout to the movement, converting some of London’s leading lights to his ‘milk and seed’ diet. From divergent perspectives, Descartes, Rousseau, Voltaire and Shelley all questioned whether it was right to eat meat. Society’s foremost thinkers engaged in the debate and their challenge to mainstream assumptions sowed the seeds of modern ecological consciousness.

This stunning debut is a rich cornucopia of 17th- and 18th-century travel, adventure, radical politics, literature and philosophy. Reaching forward into the 20th-century with the vegetarian ideologies of Hitler and Gandhi, it sheds surprising light on values still central to modern society.

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Review:

‘Fascinatingly detailed, luxuriously appointed…elegantly conceived, well written, combining proper scholarship with readability, it is a genuinely revelatory contribution to the history of human ideas.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Extraordinary…Stuart writes with flair and intelligence, and this debut shows that he is destined to be a luminous presence in his literary generation…He might even make some converts to vegetariansim itself.’ A.C. Grayling, Independent on Sunday

‘This is intellectual history at its most scintillating, as passionate and vibrant as any swashbuckling romp or perilous adventure.’ Observer

‘[A] massive and magnificently detailed history of radical vegetarianism…a wonderful book, crammed with original research and written with verve, wit and passion. The most enthralling work of cultural history I have read in years.’ Independent

‘Clearly, a staggering amount of research and dedication has gone into this book and its author displays an extraordinary breadth of knowledge and didactic ability…this makes for fascinating and compelling reading.’ Sunday Times

‘Mr Stuart has a relaxed, semi-anecdotal style which repays both careful engagement and lighter dipping…with the balance of an easy style and comprehensive research, he avoids most of the pitfalls of popular histories in which seeming ephemera take centre stage.’ The Economist

‘This well-written book is essential reading for anyone who wishes to get to grips with the philosophical history of vegetarian debate.’ BBC History Magazine

‘This book is rich in anecdotes of interesting if not altogether sympathetic characters.’ The Spectator

‘Tristram Stuart has certainly done his homework…[he] provides some charming vignettes.’ Catholic Herald

‘Tristram Stuart has written a stimulating intellectual history with extensive bibliography and precise notes. There are also some intriguing illustrations.’ The Tablet

Sunday Times:

'Clearly, a staggering amount of research and dedication has gone
into this book...fascinating and compelling reading.'

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TRISTRAM STUART
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