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Palgrave Macmillan

Exhibiting Animals in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Empathy, Education, Entertainment

ISBN 9781137384430
Publication Date June 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

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 Lecturer in History at the University of York, UK. She is author of Conquering Nature in Spain and its Empire, 1750-1850 (2011).

1. The Lions of London
2. Zoo, Community and Civic Pride
3. Elephants in the High Street
4. Animals Wholesale and Retail
5. Seeing the Elephant
6. Cruelty and Compassion
7. Dangerous Frolicking
8. In the Lions' Den


"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 beats that prowled within." - Cultural and Social History
"This is a wide-ranging and truly interdisciplinary book. Its main strength is in its broad national coverage. Too often studies of zoos have focused on London alone but Cowie draws examples from across the British Isles ... This is a richly researched monograph written in clear and compelling language. It is a book that is of immense value not only to those interested in the history of animals and leisure, but Victorian and Cultural Studies scholars more genrally." - Journal of Victorian Culture
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