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Distributed for Reaktion Books


A Troubled History

“Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death and in which the degree of brilliance in the performance is left to the fighter’s honor,” wrote Ernest Hemingway in Death in the Afternoon. Art? Ritual? Sport? Cruelty? Though opinions are divided, one thing is certain—bullfighting sparks passionate responses. Supporters argue that bullfighting is a culturally important tradition stretching back thousands of years; while animal rights groups argue that it is cruel and barbaric, causing unnecessary suffering to both bulls and horses. In Bullfighting: A Troubled History Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier brings clarity to this debate through an exploration of the long history of killing bulls as public spectacle.

This book is the first cross-cultural study of bullfighting, covering Europe, North America, and Latin America. Hardouin-Fugier shows how each continent has its own unique style and tools of the trade. For example, in North America, the favored technique is grabbing the bull by the horns, and in Europe the bull is run through with a sword. In the late 1700s bullfights became mass leisure activities, with paying spectators packing into arenas—the classic bullfight of popular imagination. It was at this time that the bullfight became a big business and the bullfighter became a celebrity. In this vivid and comprehensive history, Hardouin-Fugier also explores the extensive influence of the bullfight on art, literature, and culture from the paintings of Goya to the writings of Georges Bataille.

Enriched with many fascinating and sometimes disturbing illustrations, Bullfighting presents a discerning and intelligent approach to a divisive practice.  Hardouin-Fugier’s informative history will enthrall anyone who has been curious about bullfighting—supporters and detractors alike.

206 pages | 50 color plates, 50 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 4/5 | © 2010

History: General History

Sport and Recreation

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"A History of Bullfighting is a compact, digestible paperback from Reaktion Books, in which the author, Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier, takes the reader down the bload-soaked streets of Seville in the eighteenth century to the blood-soaked arenas of Latin American in the nineteenth to the blood-soaked manuscripts of Bataille and Hemingway in thte twentieth. . . . [The book] is spectacular in its own right--not just in its descriptions but in its images, culled from bullfighting’s rich visual history."

New Yorker Book Bench blog

 "A terrific history of, and manifesto against, bullfighting by the French art historian Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier. She falls squarely in the reformist camp, and her history argues that the sport seduced artists, who glamorized and abstracted a cruel and ugly pursuit into something that bore little resemblance to bullfighting itself. . . . She stresses the brutal labor conditions of the bull farms, and vividly evokes the persistent cruelty of the life of a fighting bull, and quotes approvingly the judgment of the nineteenth-century French journalist Fleuriot de Langle, who encountered the sport on a trip south: ’Everything appalls here.’ . . . Like so many other writers on this ghoulish subject, Hardouin-Fugier’s writing on bullfighting is really writing about the seduction of death. . . . that bullfighting had to offer was only a stylized form of valor and an aesthetics of destruction. In the bullring there was no transcendence of death, just death itself."

Ben Wallace-Wells | New Republic

"In this broad deconstruction of the meanings of bullfighting, Hardouin-Fugier musters copious data through wide-ranging, often novel, examples--art, literature, chronicles. This results in a powerful demythologization of the event and its meanings. Well-illustrated chapters cover history, practices, artistic interpretations, and sociocultural movements that have adopted or rejected the bullfight as a key symbol."


Table of Contents

1    Fighting Bulls
2    Capital Punishment
3    Plazas and Bullrings
4    What Travellers Saw
5    Nineteenth-century Spain and Latin America
6    Bullfighting, Art, Opera and Dance
7    Beyond Spain
8    The Influence of Art, Film and History
9    In the Twentieth Century
10  Modern Times
11  The Fight against Bullfighting Today

Photo Acknowledgements

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