Are you a devotee of the Arabian breed? A student of bloodstock history? A history buff?
I've just learned about a conference to be held near London, England in May that offers a rare, in-depth look into the origins of the modern Arabian horse and, in particular, the lives of the intrepid Brits who traveled to the Mideast in the 1800s to bring horses back to Britain (and to Poland, Russia, and other countries) and establish breeding farms. In this case, the farm was to be known as Crabbet Stud. They knew what they were doing, but oh! the adventures and the intrigue of their plan to transplant the epicenter of the Arabian breed so far from the desert!
This is a rare scholarly equestrian meeting with breeding, social history, and more than a few nods of the head, I'm sure, to modern-day politics.
Conference Title: "British Travellers & Equestrian Enthusiasts in Greater Syria and Arabia: Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Lady Anne Blunt, and Others"
Host: University of Kent at Canterbury
Date: 25-26th May 2007
Sponsors: Kent Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (KIASH); School of English, University of Kent; Juddmonte Farms; HE Dr Sami Khiyami, Ambassador of the Syrian Arab Republic; HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf Al Saud, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Organisers: Donna Landry, Professor of English at the University of Kent, Canterbury, Nicholas J. Mills, MRCVS, and Barnaby Rogerson, Eland Press, London
Once part of the Ottoman Empire, ?Greater Syria' and ?Arabia' serve today as geopolitical flashpoints. Yet for centuries the region was celebrated for being a centre of learning and civilisation that far outshone anything known in Europe. As late as the nineteenth century, Eastern travel could still be seen to be enlightening as well as adventurous.
It thus seems timely to revisit the experiences of Western visitors who travelled to the Middle East in search of something different from the stereotypical backwardness currently presumed by many Western institutions. The travels, accounts, and ideas of Wilfrid Scawen Blunt and Lady Anne Blunt provide a unifying focus within a broader discussion regarding travels to the region, past and present, and representations of Eastern travel in various media.
In their enthusiasm for ?asil' Arabian horses, an equine currency and treasured commodity appreciated by both East and West, the Blunts helped transform the global horse industry. By importing some of the finest Arabian bloodstock to establish their internationally famous Crabbet Stud in England, the Blunts changed forever the way the breeding of these magnificent horses has been conducted. We aim to assess the legacy of the Blunts' views about modernization, imperialism, nomadic culture, and equine genetics by investigating the complex agency of Eastern blood horses in the making of the ?English' thoroughbred, and the much-debated story of the origins of the breed.
The conference will bring together academics, independent scholars, authors, travellers, travel writers, and bloodstock experts, for the benefit of a public as well as academic audience. We hope that this might be the first of a series of conferences and publications on the writing and material culture of travel in the region, with an interest in the culture of the horse.
Speakers to include:
Glenn Bowman, U of Kent, ?Sites, Spectacles, and Simulacra: The Issue of Authenticity in Approaches to the "Holy Land"'
Dr. Rebecca Cassidy, Goldsmiths, U of London, ?Lady Wentworth and the Incendiary English Mare's Nest'
Dr. Kay Dickinson, Goldsmiths, U of London, ?Travels to and from Syrian Cinema'
Dr. Caroline Finkel, historian, and Andrew Byfield, author and botanist, ?Imagining the Great Anatolian Ride'
Robin Hanbury-Tenison, FRGS, author and traveller, ?Six Long-Distance Equestrian Journeys'
Michael Harris, Arab Horse Society of Great Britain, ?The Arabian Horse at a Crossroads'
Brigid Keenan, author, ?Travelling in Syria with Isabel Burton'
Marius Kociejowski, author and traveller, ?European Travellers to Syria and the Question of Orientalism'
Professor Donna Landry, U of Kent, ?Lady Anne Blunt and the Oriental Thoroughbred'
Nicholas J. Mills, MRCVS, ?Origins of the Thoroughbred from the Evidence of Sporting Art'
Huw Owen-Jones, traveller, ?Riding from Damascus to Palmyra in Ancestral Hoofprints, Spring 2006'
Barnaby Rogerson, publisher and author, ?Wilfrid Blunt, the Radical Traditionalist'
Caroline Sussex, breeder, ?The Influence of the Crabbet Stud Worldwide'
Peter Upton, author, ?Reassessing the Blunts' Legacy'
Jasper Winn, author and traveller, ?Bloodstock Politics and the Cultures of the Desert and the Steppe'
H.V.F. Winstone, author, ?Writing the Life of Lady Anne Blunt'
Other invited guests to give papers, or serve as chairs and discussants, as they wish:
Tim Cox, sporting librarian
Patricia Lindsey, breeder and author
Rosemary Archer, author and breeder
Professor Gerald MacLean, U of York
Publication of revised essays in a handsome volume is planned.
Contact: Professor Donna Landry, School of English, Rutherford College, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT 2 7NX; firstname.lastname@example.org; Office phone (with secretary on long ring for messages): (44) 01227 82 4745.