Established in 1836, the Bristol Zoo is the world's oldest surviving zoo outside of a capital city and has frequently been at the vanguard of zoo innovation. In The Wild Within, Andrew Flack uses the experiences of the Bristol Zoo to explore the complex and ever-changing relationship between human and beast, which in many cases has altered radically over time.
Flack recounts a history in which categories and identities combined, converged, and came into conflict, as the animals at Bristol proved to be extremely adaptive. He also reveals aspects of the human-animal bond, however, that have remained remarkably consistent not only throughout the zoo's existence but for centuries, including the ways in which even the captive animals with the most distinct qualities and characteristics are misunderstood when viewed through an anthropocentric lens.
Flack strips back the layers of the human-animal relationship from those rooted in objectification and homogenization to those rooted in the recognition of consciousness and individual experience. The multifaceted beasts and protean people in The Wild Within challenge a host of assumptions – both within and outside the zoo – about what it means to be human or animal in the modern world.
Andrew Flack is a Teaching Fellow in Modern History at the University of Bristol.