Cultural Histories


Animal series, Reaktion Books, editor Jonathan Burt

Viewed as fierce, menacing or mysterious, badgers have been both admired and reviled throughout human history. Their global reputation for ferocious self-defence has led to brutalization by hunters and sport-seekers; their association with the mythic underworld has made them symbols of earth-based wisdom and steadfast tradition; their burrowing and predation habits have resulted in widespread persecution as pests or public nuisances. Whether as living animals, abstract symbols or commercial resources, badgers have fascinated humans for thousands of years – though often to the animals' detriment.

From the iconic European badger to the African honey badger, the hog badger of Southeast Asia and the North American badger, this book is the first truly global cultural history of the animal in over 30 years. Profusely illustrated with images spanning centuries, cultures, continents and species, Badger considers badgers' lives and lore, from their evolution and widespread distribution to their current and often imperilled status throughout the world. It travels from natural history and life in the wild to the myths, legends and spiritual beliefs badgers continue to inspire, as well as their representation and exploitation in industry, religion and the arts. Appealing to anyone interested in a deeper understanding of these much misunderstood and often maligned creatures, Badger traces the complex and often contradictory ways in which this fascinating animal endures.

Species covered: primarily the Eurasian badger (Meles meles), North American badger (Taxidea taxus), and ratel/honey badger (Mellivora capensis), with occasional forays into the world of hog badgers and marginal attention to ferret badgers and stink badgers.

Published in 2015 and available outside North America from Reaktion Books, with North American distribution by the University of Chicago Press.

Commissioned badger art cards for the book courtesy of the inimitable Kat Moyou!

The official book trailer is now online, featuring "seven things you didn't know you need to know about badgers"!


Animal series, Reaktion Books, editor Jonathan Burt

Masked bandit of the night, raider of bird feeders and rubbish bins, bane of urban homeowners and rural farmers alike, the raccoon is notorious for its indifference to human ideas of property and propriety. Yet it is also widely admired throughout the world for its intelligence, its acrobatic dexterity, its determination and adaptability. It is one of the wild creatures most at home among humans; as urban areas and suburbs expand, so too do raccoon populations and all the praise and condemnation that accompany them. Millions of humans live alongside and frequently encounter raccoons, yet these uncanny creatures remain largely misunderstood and too often reviled.

Raccoon surveys the natural and cultural history of this opportunistic omnivore and its ring-tailed kin, tracing its evolution and representations in Indigenous arts and traditions to its popularity as environmental and political icons, figures of high art and mass entertainment, and bodily items of commerce. From gun-wielding superheroes in outer space to despoilers of Buddhist temples in Japan, targets of 'coon hunts to figures in racial stereotype, unmanageable pets and neighbourhood nemeses, Raccoon offers a lively and learned consideration of this complex species and its global significance.

Status: proposal accepted; final manuscript submission due fall 2016.

Frances the Badger (Taxidea taxis), once-resident badger of the Oklahoma City Zoo, 2010.

The Steadfast Eurasian Badger, art by Kat Moyou

The Formidable North American Badger, art by Kat Moyou

The Tenacious Honey Badger, art by Kat Moyou

North American Badger (Taxidea taxus)