[UCP Books]: The Great Cat and Dog Massacre: The Real Story of World War II’s Unknown Tragedy by Hilda Kean

“A brilliant telling of an important but neglected story of Britain’s People’s War.”—Jerry White, author of London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People



The Great Cat and Dog Massacre
The Real Story of World War II’s Unknown Tragedy


Publication date: May 8, 2017 978-0-226-31832-5
International publication date: May 8, 2017 $35.00/£19.95



In The Great Cat and Dog Massacre, Hilda Kean unearths the history of a forgotten World War II tragedy—in September of 1939, four hundred thousand cats and dogs were massacred in Britain. The book pieces together the compelling story of the life—and death—of Britain’s wartime animal companions at the hands of their owners. She explains that fear of imminent Nazi bombing and the desire to do something to prepare for war led Britons to sew blackout curtains, dig up flower beds for vegetable patches, send their children away to the countryside—and kill the family pet, in theory sparing them the suffering of a bombing raid. Kean’s narrative is gripping, unfolding through stories of shared experiences of bombing, food restrictions, sheltering, and mutual support. Soon pets became key to the war effort, providing emotional assistance and helping people to survive—a contribution for which the animals gained government recognition.

Drawing extensively on new research from animal charities, state archives, diaries, and family stories, Kean does more than tell a virtually forgotten story. She complicates our understanding of World War II as a “good war” fought by a nation of “good” people. Accessibly written and generously illustrated, Kean’s account of this forgotten aspect of British history moves animals to center stage—forcing us to rethink our assumptions about ourselves and the animals with whom we share our homes.



Hilda Kean is visiting professor at the University of Greenwich and an honorary senior research associate at University College London. Her many books include Animal Rights: Political and Social Change in Britain since 1800 and London Stories: Personal Lives, Public Histories.


Please contact Ashley Pierce at (773) 702-0279 or apierce@uchicago.edu for more information.


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