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Exhibiting Animals in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Empathy, Education, Entertainment

Helen Cowie

"This book is of significant value for both the insights it offers into animal, social and cultural history and for the questions it provokes. It enlivens our sense of the nineteenth century as a period during which the provision and, to a more uncertain degree, the reception of leisure were transformed, and broadens our understanding of nineteenth-century captive worlds and the brilliant human and non-human beast that prowled within." - Cultural and Social History

In an era of overseas exploration and imperial expansion, exotic animals were among the many foreign commodities to appear on British soil. They were a source of fascination to people across the social spectrum and served simultaneously as objects of entertainment, enlightenment and reflection. 

Focusing on zoos and travelling menageries in the period 1800-1880, Exhibiting Animals in Nineteenth-Century Britain explores how contemporaries thought about rare animals, where they encountered them and what symbolic, pedagogic and scientific value they attached to them. 

Helen Cowie uses animal exhibitions as a vehicle through which to examine issues of race, class, gender and colonialism. She devotes particular attention to travelling menageries, whose appeal transcended social boundaries and whose star exhibits included female lion tamers, 'ravenous hyenas' and pistol-firing elephants. 

Helen Cowie is a Lecturer in the Department of History and a member of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies

The book is available to buy through all good bookshops, or direct from Palgrave publishers.