bloodless-revolution.jpgI’ve picked up the book The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism From 1600 to Modern Times a few times in bookstores and contemplated purchasing it, but its hefty 628 pages keeps asking me the question: Do you really have time to read this book when there are so many others that will provide you with much more learning screaming for your attention? So far the answer has been, No, but I have been sorely tempted.
The opening paragraph of today’s review in the New York Times Book Review, however, has really given me second thoughts.

In his tireless quest to wean England from meat in the early 18th century, the famously corpulent Dr. George Cheyne set out to poison the novelist Samuel Richardson. It may not really have been a premeditated attempt at murder. Richardson, who was a literary pioneer with his epistolary novels “Clarissa” and “Pamela,” so valued the good doctor’s advice that he had every letter Cheyne sent him transcribed and eventually bound into a volume, the way his novels’ heroines might cherish the communications of a handsome rake. And Dr. Cheyne, whom Tristram Stuart calls “the most influential vegetarian in 18th-century Britain” (as well as a man “renowned as a drunken fatso”), may also have really believed that the best way to treat the writer’s cold was with large doses of mercury.

“Famously corpulent”? “A drunken fatso”? A vegetarian? Maybe there’s more to this book than I thought. Maybe it isn’t just the typical vegetarian propaganda.  Perhaps a careful reading could enrich my armamentarium of pithy anecdotes, ready for deployment whenever I engage in debate with the many vegetarians that seem compelled to attack my position on meat eating.
I haven’t decided to make the purchase, yet, but I’m getting ever closer. If any readers out there have read it, I would appreciate any comments.


  1. You always reference the most intriguing books. I would be most interested in knowing what those “so many others… screaming for your attention,” and those you’ve already read are. Perhaps in an upcoming post? *wink, wink*
    Many years ago I had a stint with vegetarianism. I’ve noticed that in the past couple of years it’s grown quite a bit in acceptance along with “organic” and “green” living. I might just check this out of the library the next time I go there.
    Best Regards!
    Hi Carly–
    If you saw the list of books “screaming for my attention” you would probably find most of them dull as dishwater.
    I hope you’re not planning on reaffirm your vegetarian vows from years gone by.

  2. Sir Hola.. would you have any thoughts on if a splash of berry juice would have any negative effect on the healing capapcities of L Glutamine please if taken together ? always a superb blog
    Hi Simon–
    I can’t see why a splash of berry juice would have a negative effect.  Go for it.

  3. There’s a review of this book on Slate today, (2/28/2007). This may save some time.
    Really like your blog.

  4. I am a nutrition Science analyst. I’m curious to know, have you read Biochemical Individuality by Roger J. Williams?
    For me, realizing that variations in biochemical and biophysiological makeup predispose people to thrive on various dietary approaches has caused me to wonder what all of the fuss is about. Why the animosity between vegetarians and omnivores?
    Apparently, avoiding red meat works for substantial numbers of people. However, it would be nice if there were some research correlating HDL blood cholesterol levels with omnivore/vegetarian approaches.
    I understand higher HDL levels correlate with greater longevity; it’s a characteristic often shared by centenarians. For example, “…Dr. Nir Barzilai, who has been studying centenarians for genetic and biochemical clues to longevity. At the top of the list so far: HDL and lipoprotein size … Small lipoproteins imply a shorter, less healthy life.”
    Good website. I just now discovered it.
    Hi Dave–
    I have read Roger Williams’ book.  But I’m not sure it applies to the omnivore/vegetarian debate.
    A few years back a remodeling project drove us from our bedroom, bath and shower to one of our guest rooms.  In my own familiar shower, I could turn the handle to precisely the correct position to ensure a flow of water of just the right amount of hotness for me.  When I used the guest shower, I had a helluva time getting the heat adjusted.  The handle and shower mechanisms were exactly the same in both showers, made by the same manufacturer, and installed at the same time.  If I had to get them repaired, they would both take the exact same parts.  Yet they were different.  When I turned the handle on the guest shower to the same place that worked so well on my own, I got a slightly different mix of hot and cold water that I had to fiddle with to adjust to my liking. But although slightly different, they were in more ways the same.  They both functioned to produce a mixture of hot and cold water channeled upward and directed out through a shower head.
    I view biochemical individuality as being analogous to the small differences in function between two anatomically identical showers.  I think minor variations in response to particular foods fall into the same category.  I don’t believe that people are dissimilar enough that one group responds wonderfully to a vegetarian diet while another responds better to an omnivorous or a carnivorous diet.  I believe that humans were evolved to perform optimally on a particular diet.  The search for this diet occupies much of my time.  At this point in my quest I’m pretty certain that that diet is a meat-based, low-carbohydrate diet.  I realize that there will be a variation of response to this diet just as there was a variation of response to my ‘identical’ showers, but I don’t think anyone will necessarily do better on a vegetarian diet.  I think there are people who seem to tolerate a vegetarian diet better than others, but that doesn’t mean a vegetarian diet is optimal even for them.
    I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get my point.

  5. I should have mentioned that I am an omnivore who consumes a diet rich in saturated fats from mostly dairy sources. I don’t have a website but comment of mine on the www can be viewed by Googling “David Brown: saturated fats” or “David Brown: unabsorbed calories” or “David Brown: calorie excretion”.

  6. I am currently wading my way through this book – no, I didn’t buy it, the library did. If you really like social, political and religious history it will be a fascinating read. I don’t and am having trouble staying awake. It seems the early vegetarians were convinced that God would let them atone for “original sin” (Adam eating from the Tree of Knowledge) if they stopped eating animal flesh. Haven’t gotten to Cheyne, yet. Maybe it will liven up.
    Maybe today’s vegetarians are atoning for the eco sins of their fathers.

  7. I read the book and enjoyed it. The medical community today is not a lot different than it was hundreds of years ago. The ‘establishment’ makes a statement of health based on personal beliefs and it comes science. Anyone who argues against the common beliefs is considered to be evil.
    It is interesting.  Meat eaters consider vegetarians stupid; vegetarians consider meat eaters as evil.

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