Tutor: Helen Cowie
Module type: MA Option
Module code: HIS00052M
Exotic animals have functioned at different times as symbols of power, scientific specimens, items of commerce and sources of education and entertainment. This module explores the multiple roles of exotic animals in the period 1650-1850, considering how and why they were collected, where and to whom they were exhibited and what reactions they generated.
The module traces zoological collections from private princely menageries and wunderkammern to public zoological gardens and museums in the early nineteenth century. Knowledge about exotic animals was formed both in the field and in the museum or laboratory. This information was then disseminated through exhibitions, lectures and popular works of natural history. The module situates the study and exhibition of animals within a wider passion for collecting and learning about the natural world and it considers how advances in taxidermy, shifts in taxonomy and the discovery of new species like the platypus shaped elite and popular conceptions of zoology. Attention is also paid to travelling wild beast shows, whose extensive travels and affordable admission prices democratised the study of natural history and literally brought elephants to the doors of the masses.
A variety of primary sources will be used to explore changing understandings and conceptions of exotic animals. These include contemporary newspaper accounts, zoological illustrations, guides to zoological collections and scientific texts.
The likley seminar programme is as follows:
There are no language requirements for this course, however students with a reading knowledge of French, German, Spanish or Italian may wish to make use of these.