In Review

When There Were Birds by Roy and Lesley Adkins – what the critics are saying

‘The facts and folklore of birdlife are dissected in admirable detail’

“The facts and folklore of birdlife, and man’s equivocal relationship with birds, are dissected in admirable detail in this handsome new book by Roy and Lesley Adkins,” said Roland White in The Sunday Times.

While their beauty has consistently awed us, we’ve also tended to see birds as omens of ill fortune – and “subjected them to terrible cruelty”. Until it was banned in the mid 19th century, cockfighting was England’s “most popular national sport”. Before that other, even worse games were played – such as “Throwing at Cocks” (where birds were “pelted with sticks until dead”) and “Mumbling a Sparrow” (which involved biting the head off a live sparrow).

The book makes clear how spectacularly abundant birds once were, said Christopher Hart in the Daily Mail. “Within living memory, London was filled with tens of thousands of sparrows and starlings” – whereas today there are just a few “feral pigeons”.

Sad though this is, the Adkins claim there are grounds for optimism too: “an awareness of the natural world is growing rapidly”, they write. All in all, this is a “marvellously original slice of social history”.

Little, Brown 496pp £25; The Week Bookshop £19.99

When There Were Birds book cover
The Week Bookshop

To order this title or any other book in print, visit theweekbookshop.co.uk, or speak to a bookseller on 020-3176 3835. Opening times: Monday to Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday 10am-4pm.

Recommended

23 magnificent hotels to discover in 2022
TheHotel Terrestre swimming pool, which is outside in the sun
In Focus

23 magnificent hotels to discover in 2022

Recipe: asparagus, wild garlic and English pecorino salad
Fresh asparagus on a plate
On the menu

Recipe: asparagus, wild garlic and English pecorino salad

Walking into the past on Hadrian’s Wall
Shot of the wall from above
The big trip

Walking into the past on Hadrian’s Wall

Film review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Benedict Cumberbatch in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
In Review

Film review: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Popular articles

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?
Vladimir Putin
Why we’re talking about . . .

Is Vladimir Putin seriously ill?

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths
Vladimir Putin has previously deployed ‘extreme measures’ to crush opposition
Why we’re talking about . . .

The mysterious Russian oligarch deaths

Is the UK heading for a housing crash?
A ‘sold’ sign outside residential property in Brentwood, Essex
Business Briefing

Is the UK heading for a housing crash?

The Week Footer Banner