Horses and History

Over in my day job, I’m beginning to write a history of Australian horse farms. It’s a massive project that has begun with a huge data entry section – so far 11 days of data entry and counting – to collate a basic outline of the history.

What has this got to do with romance? Aside from being a source of many wonderful and fascinating stories, my knowledge of the horse racing industry, and horses in general, occasionally leads to interesting discussions with other authors. One of those occurred last week, when an author asked me about a horse stud idea set in the Regency. I rattled on about how stud farms worked back then, compared to now, and how the basic finances around stallion and broodmare ownership hasn’t changed a lot (more syndicates now, more money and bigger books).

We talked about different ways for her plot idea to work, and came up with something that is both accurate from a horse point of view and worked for her romance. It was fun, and a good reminder that I have all this cross over knowledge.

One of the interesting parts of the discussion was the impact of colonialism on the racing industry. In the first phase  of white settlers bringing racehorses to Australia (1820-1850) they were sourced from Britain and India. The shorter transport from India was one of the reasons, but also the bloodstock quality in India at the time was excellent as the British colonialists had set up racing there and brought many good English horses with them. They cross bred them with Arabian bloodlines, and many of those horses ended up in Australia to form some of the foundation pedigrees here.

And of course, there would’ve been people who travelled with the horses. It’s completely inaccurate that the Regency was all white. The whiteness of Regency romance is an invention by authors, such as Georgette Heyer, rather than an accurate depiction of life in England and the colonies. If Australian settlers were sourcing horses from India, and the English were travelling horses between England and India, there were definitely travelling people too.

And those English men who went to India and made fortunes (via the British East India Company), sucking India’s wealth away… Many of them (up a third according to British East India documents) married Indian woman and then took their wives and children to England for their education.

The horses weren’t all English bred, and neither were the people. Adding diversity into Regency romance isn’t ahistorical, it’s depicting real life as it actually was. Any Regency romance with only white characters is a supremacist fantasy that is completely inaccurate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *