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The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age

By: Harriet Ritvo

347 pages, 43 b/w photos, 10 b/w line drawings

Penguin Books

Paperback | Jul 1989 | #127673 | ISBN: 0674037073
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £25.95 $34/€29 approx
Paperback | Mar 1990 | #4884 | ISBN: 0140118187
Out of Print Details
Hardback | Dec 1987 | #2672 | ISBN: 0674037065
Out of Print Details

About this book

Harriet Ritvo provides a picture of how animals figured in English thinking during the 19th century and, by extension, how they served as metaphors for human psychological needs and sociopolitical aspirations. Victorian England has been seen as a period of burgeoning scientific cattle breeding and newly fashionable dog shows; the age of Empire and big game hunting; and an era of reform and reformers that saw the birth of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

This volume examines Victorian thinking about animals in the context of other lines of thought: evolution, class structure, popular science and natural history, and imperial domination. The papers and publications of people and organizations concerned with agricultural breeding, veterinary medicine, the world of pets, vivisection and other humane causes, zoos, hunting at home and abroad, all reveal underlying assumptions and deeply held convictions--for example, about Britain's imperial enterprise, social discipline, and the hierarchy of orders, in nature and in human society.

The text seeks to contribute a further topic of inquiry into Victorian studies; its combination of rhetorical analysis with more conventional methods of historical research seeks to offer the reader a new perspective on Victorian culture.

The brilliance of Ritvo's book, my favorite for 1987...[lies] in the particular examples that she has chosen to illustrate the institutional bonds of humans with other animals...She tells so many wonderful stories.
- Stephen Jay Gould, New York Review of Books

"This is both an amusing and a valuable book...Harriet Ritvo is concerned primarily with the discussion, use, display of animals as part of a rhetoric of human and class ascendancy. But the material presented here with impressive lucidity and control should interest virtually any reader. And the book is intriguingly and lavishly illustrated, mostly with engravings and woodcuts from sources ranging from Punch to natural histories, stockbreeders' publications, newspapers and paintings...An important book for anyone with an interest in the sociology of animals, and in the more general social history that emerges from its beautifully presented wealth of detail."
- Vicki Hearne, New York Times Book Review


Introduction: The Nature of the Beast

Part I. Prestige and Pedigree
1. Barons of Beef
2. Prize Pets

Part II. Dangerous Classes
3. A Measure of Compassion
4. Cave Canem

Part III. Animals and Empire
5. Exotic Captives
6. The Thrill of the Chase

Illustration Credits

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Harriet Ritvo is Arthur J. Conner Professor of History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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