"But an animal only produces what it immediately needs for itself or its young. It produces one-sidedly, whilst man produces universally. It produces only under the dominion of immediate physical need, whilst man produces even when he is free from physical need and only truly produces in freedom therefrom. An animal produces only itself, whilst man reproduces the whole of nature. An animal's product belongs immediately to its physical body, whilst man freely confronts his product. An animal forms objects only in accordance with the standard and the need of the species to which it belongs, whilst man knows how to produce in accordance with the standard of every species, and knows how to apply everywhere the inherent standard to the object. Man therefore also forms objects in accordance with the laws of beauty- Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts-(Marx, 1975: 276)
"all creatures have been turned into property, the fishes in the water, the birds in the air, the plants on the earth; the creatures, too, must become free.
Horses played a significant economic, political, social and cultural role in the English revolution. It is safe to say that they played a bigger role than any other animal. Books on the relationship between horses and people during Early Modern England are certainly rare and have almost become a new historical genre.
The book is based on Robinson's extensive knowledge of the subject and is solidly researched. While claiming to be a book primarily about horses, it does examine methodologies and ideologies but does not claim to show the causes of the English Civil war. In the introduction, Robinson makes the point that the biggest names in British history have failed to explain why war broke out.
This is a pretty big statement to make, especially when he fails to back up his assertion. The book really could have done with less rhetorical flourishes and more substantial examination and proof to back up such a claim.
Despite this annoying habit, Robinson's book is a welcome addition to a very small number of specialized books on the subject. The book is also something of a breakthrough in the respect that the writer developed his art through a series of blog articles. It also counteracts the snobbish attitude amongst some historians that history blogs are not really of a high standard or worse are damaging to historical research.
The book is beautifully presented. It would seem that with the development of rival eBook devices such as Kindle publishers like Ashgate have raised their game regards the appearance of the books they publish.
Where does the book fit in with current historiography?. Robinson's book is a synthesis of revisionist thought from the last decade and should be categorized more in the school of the post revisionist school of history. The book rejects any form of determinist or economic methodology broadly associated with Marxist historiography. It is a polemic against both Marxist and Whig historiography.
I would hardly call Robinson's attack on Marxist historiography major simply because he fails to go into any lengthy detail aside from a few remarks. Robinson does not examine the huge output of major figures such as Christopher Hill or Brian Manning.
Robinson rejection of the views of Jason Hribal is one of only a few comments on Marxist historiography. A cursory view would have the reader believe that Hribal is closer to Robinson's viewpoint than he is to Marxism.
It is concerning that Robinson has not followed through on his research. Hribal's article raises several questions. Hribal is not an orthodox Marxist, and it has never been a Marxist position that horses or animals, in general, are part of the worker's movement.
Admittedly there has not been an outpouring of Marxist writings on the subject which is a shame because it is an important one. One of Hribal's sources used is Joseph Proudhon, who was not a Marxist but an Anarchist.
Hribal's notes "when Joseph Proudhon formalized his conception of the working class, this 19th-century anarchist did not hinder himself with categories of species. Under the Capitalist system, he witnessed that the exploitation of humans and other animals were interconnected".
Proudhon concluded that "the horse, who draws our coaches, and the ox who draws our carts produce with us, but are not associated with us; we take their product but do not share it with them." "The animals and labourers whom we employ hold the same relation to us. Whatever we do for them, we do, not from a sense of justice, but out of pure benevolence."
What does Robinson share with these two writers? While it is true that horses should be looked at from a class standpoint in that a horse that belongs to a rich person leads a different life from that belonging to a poor person. As Paul Larfargue noted "Horses are divided into distinct classes. The equine aristocracy enjoys so many and so oppressive privileges, that if the human-faced brutes which serve them as jockeys, trainers, stable valets and grooms were not morally degraded to the point of not feeling their shame, they would have rebelled against their lords and masters, whom they rub down, groom, brush and comb, also making their beds, cleaning up their excrements and receiving bites and kicks by way of thanks". 
Lafargue was close politically to Joseph Proudhon and his articles share a similar position on horses to the old anarchist. Both writers were the forerunners of the modern animal right movement. Lafargue believed like Hribal that animals should be seen as part of the working class.
In his The Rights of the Horse and the Rights of Man (1900) he makes this point "I make you free," so speak the Rights of Man to the labourer, "free to earn a wretched living and turn your employer into a millionaire; free to sell him your liberty for a mouthful of bread. He will imprison you ten hours or twelve hours in his workshops; he will not let you go till you are wearied to the marrow of your bones, till you have just enough strength left to gulp down your soup and sink into a heavy sleep. You have but one of your rights that you may not sell, and that is the right to pay taxes." If you take out the rhetoric and class content, this is not a million miles away from Robinson's position.
No Marxist would advocate horses being seen in the same historical sense as humans. It is certainly not Marx's position in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, "an animal only produces what it immediately needs for itself or its young. It produces one-sidedly, whilst man produces universally. It produces only under the dominion of immediate physical need, whilst man produces even when he is free from physical need and only truly produces in freedom therefrom. An animal produces only itself, whilst man reproduces the whole of nature. An animal's product belongs immediately to its physical body, whilst man freely confronts his product. An animal forms objects only in accordance with the standard and the need of the species to which it belongs, whilst man knows how to produce in accordance with the standard of every species, and knows how to apply everywhere the inherent standard to the object. Man therefore also forms objects in accordance with the laws of beauty.
How does this compare with Robinson's Viewpoint?. According to the writer of the books, the jacket notes the "book uses the supply of horses to parliamentary armies during the English Civil War to make two related points. Firstly it shows how control of resources - although vital to success - is contingent upon a variety of logistical and political considerations. It then demonstrates how competition for resources and construction of individuals' identities and allegiances fed into each other". It argues that Allegiance was not a fixed underlying condition, but was something external and changeable. Actions were more important than thoughts and to secure victory. Both sides needed people to do things rather than feel vaguely sympathetic. Furthermore, identities were not always self-fashioned but could be imposed on people against their will, making them liable to disarmament, sequestration, fines or imprisonment".
The notes were fashioned by an unidentifiable writer but must have been sanctioned by the author because they fit it in with Robinson's view regarding the English Civil War that "Actions were more important than thoughts".
Robinson's book personifies the glorification of empiricism that is extremely prevalent in current academic circles. He rejects the three most important reasons why people took sides, namely class, economics and politics. What is left after that is a philosophy of anything goes.
Robinson rejects the Marxist concept that social consciousness is determined by social being and adopts a broadly Existentialist outlook. The book is heavily imbued with this viewpoint. Again according to the blurb "this study poses fundamental questions of identity construction, showing how culture and reality influence each other. Through an exploration of Parliament's interaction with local communities and individuals, it reveals fascinating intersections between military necessity and issues of gender, patriarchy, religion, bureaucracy, nationalism and allegiance ".
Robinson does not like class-based terms like Royalist and Parliamentarian. As Nick Poyntzconcurs in his review of the book, "Parliamentarian' and 'Royalist' are two of those words that it is easy to throw around unthinkingly. Partly it is because they are such a convenient shorthand for a set of concepts that are too complicated to express succinctly, that we can forget the nuances that come with them. But as the introduction of Horses, People and Parliament points out, it is also because they are bound up with the particular way civil war allegiance has been defined in the twentieth century ".
Robinson's rejection of basic class terms is very bold. He never really outlines what he would replace them with given that his arguments against them are pretty flimsy. He also fails to explain why, for the last three hundred years historians of very different political, social and class backgrounds have been extremely comfortable with these common classifications.
He is not the first to challenge old terms. But as David Underdown correctly points out, it has been difficult to do so.
As Underdown notes "there has been a continuing, intimidating, torrent of books and articles on the broader subject of puritanism in the years since Fire From Heaven came out. When I was writing that book, some of the trendier members of the historical profession were trying to ditch the terms' Puritan' and 'Puritanism' altogether. But a look at any list of recent publications suggests they did not have much success. The sceptics did make one useful contribution, though in requiring us to be more careful about defining those terms before we use them".
Poyntz himself recognizes the enormity of challenging such fundamental conceptions "Essentialist assumptions about identity are so deeply embedded in the English language that they are difficult to challenge, or even recognize. It feels perfectly natural to say that a person was royalist, and awkwardly unnatural to say that a person did royalism ".
Despite Robinson's revisionist outlook Marxism still has a major part to play in our understanding the English Revolution. Dialectical thinking still has an important part to play in understanding complex historical problems.
As the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky notes "The fundamental flaw of vulgar thought lies in the fact that it wishes to content itself with motionless imprints of a reality which consists of eternal motion. Dialectical thinking gives to concepts, by means of closer approximations, corrections, concretization, a richness of content and flexibility; I would even say "a succulence" which to a certain extent brings them closer to living phenomena. Not capitalism in general, but a given capitalism at a given stage of development. Not a workers' state in general, but a given workers' state in a backward country in an imperialist encirclement, etc. Dialectical thinking is related to vulgar in the same way that a motion picture is related to a still photograph. The motion picture does not outlaw the still photograph but combines a series of them according to the laws of motion. Dialectics does not deny the syllogism but teaches us to combine syllogisms in such a way as to bring our understanding closer to the eternally changing reality. Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradictions, conflict of content and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc., which are just as important for theoretical thought as is the simple syllogism for more elementary tasks.
One of the major charges against Marxist' historiography is that it puts forward a view that England witnessed a bourgeois revolution in the 1640s. Revsionists counter this by saying that the bourgeoisie was on both sides and that on numerous occasion, people switched allegiances. It is a charge that Robinson agrees with.
The Marxist historian Christopher Hill counters this viewpoint saying "Marx himself did not fall into the error of thinking that men's idea was merely a pale reflection of their economic needs, with no history of their own: but some of his successors, including many who would not call themselves Marxist, have been far more economic-determinist than Marx. It seems that anybody of thought which plays a major in history – Luther's, Rousseau's, Marx's own-takes on because it meets the needs of a significant group in the society in which it comes into prominence". Hill never assumed that this was a chemically pure revolution. In fact, in his major writings, he makes the point that large numbers of people fought and took sides outside of purely economic reasons.
As Ann Talbot points out Hill "was sensitive enough to his historical sources to detect the social currents that brought people of diverse social backgrounds into a struggle against the king and well-grounded enough in history to identify new and revolutionary ideas in the curious and archaic guise in which they appeared—as the ideologists of the revolution ransacked the Bible and half-understood historical precedent for some kind of theory to explain what they were doing".
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Robinson book is the attack on anthropocentric historiography. According to Nick Poynzt "Horses had their temperaments and did not always respond to human attempts to control them. Given how essential horses were to civil war armies – not just for cavalry, but for supply as well – their willingness or unwillingness to comply could be just as important as human decisions about whether to provide king or Parliament with resources. There are shades here of 'for the want of a nail', not just in terms of how battles were fought but also in terms of how resources were gathered".
There are parts of the book which I have found hard to digest and they honestly give me some concern. Throughout the book, Robinson makes a number of references to the assertion that horses should be put on the same level as humans and should even be "seen as agents in the civil wars" or that the horses themselves held allegiances.
For Robinson, the war has for too long has been written from an anthropocentric standpoint. The book manages to stand on its head well over three hundred years of Civil war historiography. To say that his viewpoint is controversial would be a gross understatement.
Another challenge to established historiography is his adoption of gender studies. Robinson is heavily influenced by the work of Rachel Weil. According to her Wikipedia page Rachel Judith Weil 1959- is a teacher and scholar, specializing in gender and culture in 17th and 18th Century England.
Gender studies form an important aspect of the Robinson book. One task of the book is to establish gender studies as a crucial way of explaining the Civil War. Following the lead set by Rachel Weil, Robinson says "I am always happy to hear calls for more gender. I made it my third priority after Allegiance and resources as Ann Hughes was already doing it, but there is so much more that could be done. My only criticism of the Hughes book is that it is very short for such a huge and under-researched aspect of the civil wars. I was not sure if anyone would spot that feminist Easter egg in the index, but it is what most history books should have if they are honest."
Gender or women's studies is a new type of historiography. The recent proliferation of books and articles has many reasons. One major factor being the growth of women historians who have started to explore this previously under-researched subjects. Another no less important reason is that women, in general, have a much-increased degree of political freedom and economic independence than previous generations of women.
Gender historiography is a relatively new concept in which to study women's role in history. It is largely a by-product of the genre "history from below" instigated by the Communist Party History Group. While producing some extremely valuable research and publications, the replacing of gender over class in the study of historical events was a move away from a classical Marxist approach.
Gender studies became especially strong within the History Workshop movement. The growth was facilitated by such books such as E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class in the early 1960s provided a platform for gender studies to grow.
This coincided with the rise of independent women historians and writers who "insisted that women's experience no longer be 'hidden from history'. Sally Alexander and Anna Davin, 'Feminist History', History Workshop Journal, no 1 Spring 1976; Barbara Taylor, Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the 19th Century, 1983.
According to studies, women make up nearly fifty per cent of the English working population. They also have a degree of freedom not heard of in previous generations. In other words, the origins of women history studies appeared as a direct result of the struggle for social quality amongst women.
To conclude. The study of horses is important and under-researched aspect of the English Civil war. The book is a bit messy in places and could have done with a firmer editorial hand. I reject Robinson's central argument that previous historiography has been too Anthropocentric. My approach remains determinedly anthropocentric.
 What is Property? By P. J. Proudhon
 Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts-(Marx, 1975: 276).
 The ABC of Materialist Dialectics (December 1939) Extract from A Petty-Bourgeois Opposition in the Socialist Workers Party.
 These the times ... this the man": an appraisal of historian Christopher Hill-By Ann Talbot 25 March 2003 https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2003/03/hill-m25.html
 Anthropocentric- regarding man as the most important and central factor in the universe
 Sexual Ideology and Political Propaganda in England 1680-1714". Also Sometimes a Scepter is Only a Scepter: Pornography and Politics in Restoration England" (1993).