Seminar Series 2018/19

26th September 2018

We Account The Whale Immortal. 
Philip Hoare, University of Southampton.

The sperm whale slips through human and natural history, suitably protean given its seminal name.  Philip Hoare looks at how the mighty salt-sea mastodon, a grand hooded phantom, has changed in shape and meaning according to what we have demanded of it: from fearful monster of creation myth and industrial resource to a sentient, cultural, matriarchal animal.  How has the whale changed according to our culture, and how have we changed according to the whale’s?  Will we ever learn, or can we only agree with Herman Melville who, after writing 135 chapters on the subject, concluded, ‘I know him not, and never will’?

24th October 2018

Men and Beasts.
Maureen Duffy, Fellow King’s College London.

14th November 2018

Caress, Co-Dependence and The Making of the Guide Dog Partnership in 1930s America.
Dr Neil Pemberton, University of Manchester.

13th December 2018

Visit to the Zoological Society of London Library. 6-7:30pm.

(Please note this event is due to take place on a Thursday and not our usual Wednesday evening.)

The ZSL Library and Archive team have very kindly agreed to host our December meeting at the Zoological Society Library. Members will have the chance to listen to a paper on Philip Lutley Sclater, a key individual in the history of the Society, and to view some of the wonderful Library and Archive Collections.

“Dear Secretary: Letters to Philip Lutley Sclater”.

Philip Lutley Sclater was an ornithologist, zoologist and lawyer who was ZSL’s Secretary between 1860-1902. The letters written to him by fellow Zoologists, members of the public and luminaries of the period make up one of the largest extant collection of letters we hold in the ZSL archive. We’ll explore some of these letters to get a sense of the man, and varied job of being the secretary of the society for 42 years.

 We hope you’ll be able to join us for what we are sure will be a fascinating event.

9th January 2019

Unravelled Dreams: Silkworms and their Many Travails in the Atlantic World, c.1530-1830.
Dr Ben Marsh, University of Kent.

6th February 2019

Painters of Pedigree Animals in the Agricultural Revolution.
Professor Lawrence Weaver, Exeter College, Oxford.

The decades around the end of the 18th century saw the appearance of some astonishing farm animals. New agricultural methods dedicated to improving crop yields and meat production transformed the English landscape. Novel breeding systems, driven by a demand for fatter livestock to feed a growing population generated cattle, sheep and pigs with appearances and proportions that had never been seen before.

Such prize and pedigree animals demanded portrayal, to advertise their improbable, but ‘true’ dimensions to farmers, butchers and landowners, and to satisfy the curiosity of an incredulous public. Artists were needed who could combine art, artistry and artifice to portray their outstanding features with style, impact and verisimilitude. Their fortunes rose and fell with the changing fashions and passions for new breeds and with the popularity of mezzotint and lithographic printing. Theirs was a niche, and uncertain, occupation during a time of rapid economic, agricultural, social, political and artistic change.

This paper will explore the origins, training, technical and artistic skills (or otherwise) of a small cohort of artists who made it their job to paint pedigree animals for pedigree people; their patrons and clients, how they made livings promoting the ‘new agriculture’, their partnerships with engravers, framers and glaziers, and the circulation of their paintings and prints, through art exhibitions, agricultural shows and private sales.

6th March 2019

Lost Dogs in 18th and 19th Century London.
Dr Kate Smith, University of Birmingham.

3rd April 2019

Archive Showcase by RCVS Knowledge

Venue: Council Chamber, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, Belgravia House, 62-64 Horseferry Rd, London SW1P 2AF

Material from the Historic Collections of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

8th May 2019

City of Beasts: How Animals Shaped Georgian London.
Tom Almeroth-Williams.

Georgian London has been the subject of countless academic studies, popular histories and films, but how much do we really know about this city?

It’s been described as ‘a city full of people’ but a city of beasts has been hiding in plain sight. By placing horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and dogs centre stage, Tom Almeroth-Williams’ new book (out 30 May) challenges orthodox assumptions about Georgian London, and Britain.

Was the capital really only a bit player in the Industrial Revolution? Was the city agriculturally unproductive? Did sociability drive metropolitan recreation unchallenged? Were manufactured goods and exotic imports the only boom markets in the consumer revolution?

Moving away from the philosophical, fictional and humanitarian sources which have dominated English animal studies, Tom focuses on evidence of tangible, dung-bespattered interactions between real people and animals.

In this talk, Tom will give a whistle-stop tour of the city of beasts, explain his motivation for writing the book and discuss the challenges of integrating animals into social and urban history.

*Attendees will receive a discount code to pre-order Tom’s book, details of which can be found here:

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