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Animals and History

Animals and History
DOI: 10.5040/9781474209465.001

  • Publisher:
    Bloomsbury Publishing
  • Identifier:
    b-9781474209465-001
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Introduction

There has never been any purely human space in world history—ever. This course explores the history of human ideas about and uses of animals, and important ways of interpreting that past in order to understand the lives of historical animals from antiquity to the present.

The course has four goals:

  • To understand how human–animal relationships changed over time since antiquity with the advent and development of human ascendancy on the planet;

  • To understand how ideas about and uses of animals changed due to the development of Christianity, the scientific method, capitalism, and urbanization;

  • To identify and explain the many contradictions in historical ideas about and uses of animals;

  • To encourage students to think about how and why, animal behavior and its change over time are not documented or explained in the assigned readings, and thus the anthropocentrism inherent in the academic study of animals in the past (such as it has been over the last twenty-five years).

Unit Outline

This eight-module lesson plan is intended for use throughout a semester and is suitable for second- and third-year students in history, animal studies, or cultural studies. It provides eight thematic lessons that ask students to study change over time. Other “lessons” in which the students engage in research, posting, and discussion assignments based in the units below should be inserted into the outline schedule, as appropriate.

Lesson 1

Animals and Antiquity

Texts to be read before the lesson

Kalof, Linda. 2007. “Introduction: Ancient Animals.” In Vol. 1, A Cultural History of Animals in Antiquity , edited by Linda Kalof. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049505-005?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Mason, Jim. 2007. “Animals: From Souls and the Sacred in Prehistoric Times to Symbols and Slaves in Antiquity.” In Vol. 1, A Cultural History of Animals in Antiquity , edited by Linda Kalof. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049505-ch-001?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Hughes, J. Donald. 2007. “Hunting in the Ancient Mediterranean World.” In Vol. 1, A Cultural History of Animals in Antiquity , edited by Linda Kalof. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049505-ch-002?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Clutton-Brock, Juliet. 2007. “How Domestic Animals Have Shaped the Development of Human Societies.” In Vol. 1, A Cultural History of Animals in Antiquity , edited by Linda Kalof. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049505-ch-003?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Discussion questions

Survey all the readings above. From them, make a list of the kinds of topics, themes, and questions that constitute the history of human–animal relationships. (The list will help you navigate the rest of the course material.)

  • Where and when is the period historians define as “antiquity”? To what degree did people in this period understand themselves to be part of the natural world? To what degree separate from it?

  • What kinds of animals did people live with, either wild or domesticated, and how so?

Homework

Conduct an online webquest to discover popular and academic understandings of the following terms: anthropomorphism, anthropocentric, speciesism, animal welfare (and the five freedoms philosophy), animal rights, carnism, human ascendancy, and anthropocene age.

Lesson 2

Animals as Myth and Symbol

Texts to be read before the lesson

Resl, Brigitte. 2007. “Introduction: Animals in Culture, ca. 1000–ca. 1400.” In Vol. 2, A Cultural History of Animals in the Medieval Age , edited by Brigitte Resl. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049512-005?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Page, Sophie. 2007. “Good Creation and Demonic Illusions: The Medieval Universe of Creatures.” In Vol. 2, A Cultural History of Animals in the Medieval Age , edited by Brigitte Resl. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049512-ch-001?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Resl, Brigitte. 2007. “Beyond the Ark: Animals in Medieval Art.” In Vol. 2, A Cultural History of Animals in the Medieval Age , edited by Brigitte Resl. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049512-ch-007?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Dickenson, Victoria. 2007. “Meticulous Depiction: Animals in Art, 1400–1600.” In Vol. 3, A Cultural History of Animals in the Renaissance , edited by Bruce Boehrer. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049550-ch-007?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Discussion questions

  • In what ways did people imagine or depict animals in particular places and times?

  • What kinds of topics or phenomena did they wish to explore in those ways?

  • To what degree were these imaginings accurate or not accurate, why so? As historians, how can we know?

Homework

Write a short essay explaining the focus questions above with attention to change over time.

Lesson 3

Human and Nonhuman

Texts to be read before the lesson

Reread: Page, Sophie. 2007. “Good Creation and Demonic Illusions: The Medieval Universe of Creatures.” In Vol. 2, A Cultural History of Animals in the Medieval Age , edited by Brigitte Resl. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049512-ch-001?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Beullens, Pieter. 2007. “Like a Book Written by God’s Finger: Animals Showing the Path toward God.” In Vol. 2, A Cultural History of Animals in the Medieval Age , edited by Brigitte Resl. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049512-ch-005?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Senior, Matthew. 2007. “The Souls of Men and Beasts, 1630–1764.” In Vol. 4, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Enlightenment , edited by Matthew Senior. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049536-ch-001?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Guichet, Jean-Luc. 2007. “Animality and Anthropology in Jean-Jacques Rousseau.” In Vol. 4, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Enlightenment , edited by Matthew Senior. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049536-ch-006?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Discussion questions

  • When did the status of being “human” come to be defined by not being “an animal”?

  • Why and when did people decide that humans should be considered categorically different from other animals? And to what effect?

  • Explain some specific historical examples that demonstrate these broader patterns.

Homework

Write a short essay explaining the focus questions above with attention to change over time.

Lesson 4

Animals and Labor

Texts to be read before the lesson

Pascua, Esther. 2007. “From Forest to Farm and Town: Domestic Animals from Ca. 1000 to ca. 1450.” In Vol. 2, A Cultural History of Animals in the Medieval Age , edited by Brigitte Resl. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049512-ch-003?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Raber, Karen. 2007. “From Sheep to Meat, From Pets to People: Animal Domestication, 1600–1800.” In Vol. 4, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Enlightenment , edited by Matthew Senior. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049536-ch-003?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Griffith, Eva. 2007. “Inside and Outside: Animal Activity and the Red Bull Playhouse, St. John Street.” In Vol. 4, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Enlightenment , edited by Matthew Senior. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049536-ch-004?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

In addition, please watch the following before the lesson:

War Horse: The Real Story, directed by George Pagliero. Testimony Films/Channel Four (Great Britain), 2012.

Film available at https://tvfinternational.com/programme/15/war-horse-the-real-story?trailer=1

Discussion questions

  • What kinds of labor, active and passive, have animals done for humankind?

  • How did the forces of capitalism and science shape these human ideas?

  • What factors increased or decreased the demand for animal workers?

Homework

Write a short essay explaining the focus questions above with attention to change over time.

Lesson 5

Human Predation—Hunting

Texts to be read before the lesson

Smets, An, and Baudouin Van Den Abeele. 2007. “Medieval Hunting.” In Vol. 2, A Cultural History of Animals in the Medieval Age , edited by Brigitte Resl. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049512-ch-002?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Bergman, Charles. 2007. “A Spectacle of Beasts: Hunting Rituals and Animal Rights in Early Modern England.” In Vol. 3, A Cultural History of Animals in the Renaissance , edited by Bruce Boehrer. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049550-ch-002?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Warthesen, Amy. 2007. “The War against Animals: The Culture of the Hunt in Early Modern France.” In Vol. 4, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Enlightenment , edited by Matthew Senior. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049536-ch-002?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Herman, Daniel Justin. 2007. “From Farmers to Hunters: Cultural Evolution in the Nineteenth-Century United States.” In Vol. 5, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Empire , edited by Kathleen Kete. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049529-ch-002?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

In addition, please watch the following before the lesson:

Last Days of Ivory, directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Annapurna Pictures, 2014.

Film available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gQujyNDp98

Discussion questions

  • When and why did some people cease hunting merely for subsistence?

  • How and why were regional, class, or gender roles expressed through hunting practices?

Homework

Write a short essay explaining the focus questions above with attention to change over time.

Lesson 6

Animals Employed as Story and Entertainment

Texts to be read before the lesson

Kiser, Lisa J.. 2007. “Animals in Medieval Sports, Entertainment, and Menageries.” In Vol. 2, A Cultural History of Animals in the Medieval Age , edited by Brigitte Resl. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049512-ch-004?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Grant, Teresa. 2007. “Entertaining Animals.” In Vol. 3, A Cultural History of Animals in the Renaissance , edited by Bruce Boehrer. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049550-ch-004?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Sørensen, Madeleine Pinault. 2007. “Portraits of Animals, 1600–1800.” In Vol. 4, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Enlightenment , edited by Matthew Senior. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049536-ch-007?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Rothfels, Nigel. 2007. “How the Caged Bird Sings: Animals and Entertainment.” In Vol. 5, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Empire , edited by Kathleen Kete. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049529-ch-004?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

In addition, please watch the following before the lesson:

Cruel Camera, directed by Oleh J. Rumak. CBC—The Fifth Estate, 2009.

Film available at https://curio.ca/en/video/cruel-camera-4154/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-RVDASwJ84 ]

Discussion questions

  • When and how did people come to have leisure time to consume animals as decoration and entertainment?

  • When and why did people expect those animals to seem “happy” or not?

  • What stories did people tell with live animals or their representations? Why so?

Homework

Write a short essay explaining the focus questions above with attention to change over time.

Lesson 7

Animals as Data

Texts to be read before the lesson

Guerrini, Anita. 2007. “Natural History, Natural Philosophy, and Animals, 1600–1800.” In Vol. 4, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Enlightenment , edited by Matthew Senior. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049536-ch-005?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Murray, Narisara. 2007. “From Birds of Paradise to Drosophila: The Changing Roles of Scientific Specimens to 1920.” In Vol. 5, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Empire , edited by Kathleen Kete. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049529-ch-005?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Rader, Karen A.. “Scientific Animals: Reflections on the Laboratory and Its Human-Animal Relations, from Dba to Dolly and Beyond.” In Vol. 6, A Cultural History of Animals in the Modern Age , edited by Randy Malamud. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049543-ch-005?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Acampora, Ralph R.. 2007. “Animal Philosophy: Bioethics and Zoontology.” In Vol. 6, A Cultural History of Animals in the Modern Age , edited by Randy Malamud. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049543-ch-006?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

In addition, please watch the following before the lesson:

Maximum Tolerated Dose, directed by Carol Orzechowski, 2012.

Film available at http://maximumtolerateddose.vhx.tv/

Discussion questions

  • How did the scientific revolution in Europe and Cartesian philosophy shape naturalists’ and scientists’ attitudes about and actions toward animals?

  • What did early naturalists and later scientists want to find out by capturing, examining, displaying, and experimenting upon nonhuman animals?

  • What moral and scientific contradictions have people lived with in the process of turning animals into data?

Homework

Write a short essay explaining the focus questions above with attention to change over time.

Lesson 8

Animals and Modern Consumerism

Texts to be read before the lesson

Kean, Hilda. 2007. “The Moment of Greyfriars Bobby: The Changing Cultural Position of Animals, 1800–1920.” In Vol. 5, A Cultural History of Animals in the Age of Empire , edited by Kathleen Kete. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049529-ch-001?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Malamud, Randy. 2007. “Introduction: Famous Animals in Modern Culture.” In Vol. 6, A Cultural History of Animals in the Modern Age , edited by Randy Malamud. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049543-005?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

Demello, Margo. 2007. “The Present and Future of Animal Domestication.” In Vol. 6, A Cultural History of Animals in the Modern Age , edited by Randy Malamud. Oxford: Berg.

http://dx.doi.org/10.5040/9781350049543-ch-003?locatt=label:secondary_bloomsburyCulturalHistory

In addition, please watch the following before the lesson:

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, directed by Kip Anderson, Keegan Kuhn, 2014.

Film available at http://www.cowspiracy.com/

Discussion questions

  • In what ways was modern living defined by viewing animals in one’s role as a consumer (rather than a worker as in pre-modern times)? How did the movement of populations into cities facilitate this process?

  • What have been both the ethical and environmental costs of the consumer’s approach toward valuing animals?

  • Think historically and explain how this lesson connects to previous lessons in the course thematically with respect to meat, entertainment, or other products made from animals.

Homework

Write a short essay explaining the focus questions above with attention to change over time.

Assessment Options

Assignments should ask students to consider both the history of human ideas about and uses of animals and the actual lived history of animals, which can be difficult to discern from assigned readings and the animal history literature such as it is. Nonetheless, students should be asked to think about what we know and what we do not know. Furthermore, because the study of animals and society is not a clinical or valueless one, students should consider their own ethics and emotions about the topic while doing more empirical and analytical work.

Hence, it is a good idea in the first week of the course to have an assignment in which students do a “webquest” or online search to define public understandings of the following terms: anthropocentrism, speciesism, animal welfare, animal rights, and anthropocene. By discussing public, both popular and academic, understandings of these terms, students can work through some of their own values and any discomfort that emerges from the contradictions that they inevitably discover without having to discuss their own beliefs or practices directly. In addition, defining these problematic terms at the beginning of the course gets all the students on the same page, so to speak, right away and improves the quality of their work thereafter.

During the remainder of the semester, a series of short written assignments—for instance, essays of 1500 words or less, provide a series of smaller tasks that students find less daunting and allow for practice and thus improvement over the course of a single semester.

An assignment that students often appreciate is an online discussion board or in class-presentation curation of an archival find. There are many online archives that contain graphic primary sources depicting animals—artwork, advertising, photographs, video—to which students can be directed. Give them a theme (e.g., animals at work, animals in art, pet keeping, zoo) and ask them to find a source and curate it for fellow students, with students looking at and commenting on one another’s work. The curation should analyze the content of the primary source and what we learn from it about the past, explaining who created it, for whom, when, why, and to what effect, as well as using assigned course readings to link the primary source to topics and themes of the course.

Enrichment Materials

Beyond the films and videos named in the outline above, online research can be done through simple webquest searches (for Unit 1, finding public and academic understandings of key terms—making it clear to students that they only do this once at the beginning of the course!) and at the following online archives (for primary source analysis and curation assignments):

Library of Congress digital archives: https://www.loc.gov/collections/

New York Public Library digital image archives: https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/

Online Archive of California/Calisphere: https://calisphere.org/

Libraries and Archives Canada online images: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/lac-bac/search/images

Internet Archive online books and texts: https://archive.org/details/texts

Internet Archive online video: https://archive.org/details/movies

British Library online collections: https://www.bl.uk/catalogues-and-collections/digital-collections

Oxford University digital image library: http://www.odl.ox.ac.uk/digitalimagelibrary/index.html

Wellcome Collection, Bloomsbury Image Database:

www.bloomsburyculturalhistory.com/museum?docid=BCH_images_wellcome