How the Chicken Crossed the World

How the Chicken Crossed the World
Andrew Lawler
Price: £
  • Paperback
16 Jun 2016
  • Non-Fiction
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Queen Victoria was obsessed with it. Socrates' last words were about it. Charles Darwin and Louis Pasteur made their scientific breakthroughs using it. Hailed as a messenger of the gods, powerful sex symbol, gambling aid, all-purpose medicine and handy research tool, the humble chicken has been also cast as the epitome of evil, and the star of the world's most famous joke.

Beginning with the recent discovery, that the chicken's unlikely ancestor is the T. Rex, How the Chicken Crossed the World tracks the chicken from its original domestication in the jungles of Southeast Asia some 10,000 years ago to today's Western societies, where it became the most engineered of animals, to the uncertain future of what is now humanity's single most important source of protein. In a masterful combination of historical sleuthing and journalistic exploration on four continents, Lawler reframes how we feel and think about all domesticated animals and nature itself.


‘Setting the record straight, Lawler’s latest tome recasts the chicken as a “feathered Swiss Army knife” – a bird that has fuelled cultural, economic and scientific growth for several thousand years’ The Guardian

‘Lawler’s book goes a long way toward restoring chickens to their respected position within human history and our modern world. Both chickens and people will benefit as a result’ Science Magazine

‘Science journalist Adrian Lawler explores the chicken’s multipronged place in human civilization in his rip-roaring, erudite Why did the Chicken Cross the World?’ Nature Magazine

'My grudging respect blossomed into full-blown awe as I read Andrew Lawler's fascinating and delightful Why Did the Chicken Cross the World? What unfolds from this exhaustive reporting is a story not just large in scope but surprising in its details...After reading this book, one expects to find a chicken lurking in the background of every religious painting and artifact...Readers will laugh -- and want to buy Mr. Lawler a drink' The Wall Street Journal

'A splendid book full of obsessive travel and research in history, mythology, archaeology, biology, literature and religion' Kirkus (Starred Review)

'How this humble bird saved humanity - No bird is a match for the chicken...Lawler chronicles how a wild bird from Southeast Asia ended up being mass-produced by the billions and raised in every country, he writes, except one' Daily Beast

'This is an appealing, beautifully written exploration of an important, but hitherto neglected, major player in our history. I'll never think about chickens the same way again' Brian Fagan (author of The Attacking Ocean)

'Prize-winning journalist Andrew Lawler takes on the world in this elegant and engaging paean to poultry...This book challenges not only everything we thought we knew about this most beleaguered bird, but of nature itself. Astonishing' Ellen Ruppel Shell (author of Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture)

Andrew Lawler

About Andrew Lawler

Andrew Lawler is the author of more than a thousand newspaper and magazine articles on subjects ranging from asteroids to zebrafish. He is a contributing writer for Science magazine a contributing editor for Archaeology magazine and has written for National GeographicSmithsonianDiscoverThe New York Times, and several European newspapers. Visit him at

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