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This insightful work is a compact but wide-ranging survey of humankind's relationship to the great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans), from antiquity to the present. Replete with fascinating historical details and anecdotes, it traces twists and turns in our construction of primate knowledge over five hundred years. Chris Herzfeld outlines the development of primatology and its key players and events, including well-known long-term field studies, notably the pioneering work by women such as Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas.
Herzfeld seeks to heighten our understanding of great apes and the many ways they are like us. The reader will encounter apes living in human families, painting apes, apes who use American Sign Language, and chimpanzees who travelled in space.
A philosopher and historian specializing in primatology, Herzfeld offers thought-provoking insights about our perceptions of apes, as well as the boundary between "human" and "ape" and what it means to be either.
Originally published in French as Petite Histoire des Grand Singes.
Chris Herzfeld is an artist and freelance researcher trained at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris. She lives in Brussels, Belgium, and Naples, FL. Kevin Frey received a PhD in English from SUNY Stony Brook. He lives in New York City.
"A compact but wide-ranging survey of human beings' relationship to their closest living relatives in nature, the great apes (chimpanzee, gorilla, orangutan), within the context of the primates more broadly [...] There is an enormous amount of history packed into a relatively short space."
– Ian Tattersall, author of The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack: And Other Cautionary Tales from Human Evolution and Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins
"What must it mean to hold open space, hold open the present and the future, for beings from whom modern humans have wrested space and lifetimes so radically? The Great Apes writes of the history of coming to know the apes in their profound similarities and differences from each other and from human beings. These histories are essential to deepening long-overdue practices of care for individuals and species. Terrans Unite!"
– Donna J. Haraway, author of Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science
"Presenting a rich panorama of ape and human actors and the knowledge that their interactions have generated, Chris Herzfeld offers a history of primatology that is simultaneously engaging, enlightening, and inspiring."
– Richard W. Burkhardt, Jr., author of Patterns of Behavior: Konrad Lorenz, Niko Tinbergen, and the Founding of Ethology
"Spanning centuries and continents, this book provides an excellent examination of the many scientists, philosophers, and artists who have grappled with the similarities and differences between humans and other apes while also bringing attention to the primates whose lives were observed, manipulated, or abused as part of this animal history."
– Georgina M. Montgomery, author of Primates in the Real World: Escaping Primate Folklore and Creating Primate Science
"Herzfeld's very well-researched and readable account of our interactions and fascination with our primate relatives begs the question of the boundary between ape and human."
– Nancy Bent, Booklist