Department of History
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MA and PhD (University of Warwick)
Helen Cowie is Professor of Early Modern History in the Department of History and a member of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. She completed her PhD at the University of Warwick and joined the department in 2011. Her research focuses on the cultural history of science with a particular focus on the history of animals. She also researches and teaches the History of Latin America.
Helen’s research focuses on the cultural history of animals. A growing area of study, the history of animals explores changing human animal relations, and can reveal a lot about the attitudes of different societies.
Helen's most recent book, Victims of Fashion, studies animal-based commodities in Britain in the period c.1800-1914. Focusing on six luxury animal products – birds’ feathers, sealskin, ivory, alpaca wool, perfumes (civet, musk, ambergris and bear’s grease) and exotic pets – she highlights the pervasive nature of animal-based consumables in the Victorian and Edwardian eras and trace their rise and fall in popularity in response to changing tastes, availability and ethical concerns.
Helen’s previous publications have looked at the study of animals in museums and their exhibition in zoos and menageries. Her first monograph Conquering Nature in Spain and its Empire c.1750-1850 examines the study of natural history in the Spanish Empire in the years 1750-1850, a period in which Spain made strenuous efforts to survey, inventory and exploit the natural productions of her overseas possessions. Her second monograph, Exhibiting Animals in Nineteenth-Century Britain examines the popularization of natural knowledge through zoological gardens and travelling menageries. It encompasses a wide array of characters, from female lion tamers to piano-playing elephants. Helen’s third book, a cultural history of the llama, charts the history of this charismatic camelid from Inca icon to therapy animal.
Summer term 2023