The Story of Rats: Their Impact on Us, and Our Impact on Them

The Story of Rats: Their Impact on Us, and Our Impact on Them

The Story of Rats: Their Impact on Us, and Our Impact on Them

The Story of Rats: Their Impact on Us, and Our Impact on Them

Synopsis

More than the story of how people and rats live together, this book takes a serious and intriguing look at science and scientists, the problems they solve and fail to solve, and the scope and imperfections of our scientific knowledge of the world. It answers questions such as: Are rats still a threat to human health? Do rats think? Is it true that wild rats sometimes die, unwounded, from social stress? Can studies of rat societies tell us anything useful about our own social lives? This compelling historical and social study will capture the interest of all readers—from those fascinated by rats to those who cringe—by explaining the delicate and sometimes volatile impacts humans and rats have had on each other over the centuries and into the modern age.

Excerpt

Can it be—it must be—that you are that embodiment of the incorporeal, that elusive yet ineluctable being to whom through the generations novelists have so unavailingly made invocation; in short, the Gentle Reader?

HENRY JAMES

When my publisher, Ian Bowring, received the manuscript of Science, Myth or Magic?, he suggested that, after half a century of research on rodents and their impacts on people, I might have something useful to say about them. So I asked several thoughtful persons what they would like to find in a short book on science and rats. One, a true friend, warned me against being boring and worthy. Another said that the title I proposed,Wild Rats, suggested a thriller. At first I disregarded that; but later I realised that passages in my narrative, especially those on death of unknown origin, have something in common with a detective story. A third said that she would look for likenesses of rats to herself. My immediate response was, ‘And unlikenesses?’, which led to an energetic but still unfinished discussion. Lastly, one suggested a social history of human . . .

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