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Menagerie: The History of Exotic Animals in England

The story of exotic animals in Britain, from time immemorial to the foundation of the London Zoo
A tour through the centuries, forming the first ever detailed history of exotic animals in Britain
A chronicle of the extravagant, the eccentric, and – on occasion – the outright bizarre
From peacocks and popinjays to Georgian giraffes, via Thomas More's monkey, James I's cassowaries, and Lord Clive's zebra
A story both of the animals themselves and the many people who came into contact with them – from owners, collectors, and scientists to the public who came to view them

By: Caroline Grigson (Author), Juliet Clutton-Brock (Foreword By)

357 pages, 8 plates with 14 colour photos and colour illustrations; 27 b/w photos and b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Jan 2016 | #224557 | ISBN-13: 9780198714705
Availability: Usually dispatched within 48 hours
NHBS Price: £24.99 $31/€28 approx

About this book

Menagerie: The History of Exotic Animals in England is the story of the panoply of exotic animals that were brought into Britain from time immemorial until the foundation of the London Zoo – a tale replete with the extravagant, the eccentric, and – on occasion – the downright bizarre. From Henry III's elephant at the Tower, to George IV's love affair with Britain's first giraffe and Lady Castlereagh's recalcitrant ostriches, Caroline Grigson's tour through the centuries amounts to the first detailed history of exotic animals in Britain.

On the way we encounter a host of fascinating and outlandish creatures, including the first peacocks and popinjays, Thomas More's monkey, James I's cassowaries in St James's Park, and Lord Clive's zebra – which refused to mate with a donkey, until the donkey was painted with stripes. But this is not just the story of the animals themselves. It also the story of all those who came into contact with them: the people who owned them, the merchants who bought and sold them, the seamen who carried them to our shores, the naturalists who wrote about them, the artists who painted them, the itinerant showmen who worked with them, the collectors who collected them. And last but not least, it is about all those who simply came to see and wonder at them, from kings, queens, and nobles to ordinary men, women, and children, often impelled by no more than simple curiosity and a craving for novelty.

"Combining a zoologist's knowhow with an historian's tenacity for detail, Caroline Grigson has scoured archives to produce a comprehensive study of animal collections in England from earliest times until the founding of London Zoo in 1828. From archaeological finds to illuminated bibles, auction catalogues to court cases and even a 1705 gravestone commemorating the first woman killed by a tiger it is a story replete with as much comedy as tragedy, peopled by naturalists, aristocrats and showmen who were often as strange as the animals they collected [...] Filled with lively anecdote and scholarly commentary, Grigsons book is a delightful guide to our long national obsession with wildlife."
– Wendy Moore, The Guardian

"Grigson is terrific at sleuthing down the remains of famous beasts. She also opens a few small windows onto national character [...] [and] unearths some surprising historical gems. Who knew that the novelist Daniel Defoe went bankrupt trying to breed civet cats? Or that British hunts were once so desperate for foxes that they had to import them? Although private citizens would continue to keep menageries, this book ends with the demise of the collection at the Tower of London and the foundation of the London Zoo. It all makes the modern reader feel incredibly grateful that today we can enjoy exotic wildlife on our television screens, with the objects of our fascination in their natural habitats and no viewers gored."
– Helen Brown, The Daily Telegraph


Foreword by Juliet Clutton-Brock
1. From the Normans to the Tudors
2. The Stuarts, 1603-1688
3. George III, c.1760-1811
4. George IV, as Regent and King, 1811-1830
6. William IV, c. 1830-1837

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A zoologist, formerly a curator in the Museums of the Royal College of Surgeons, Caroline Grigson is now an honorary professor at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. The subjects of her numerous publications range from prehistoric animal husbandry to the study of natural history and its relationship to art in eighteenth century London.

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