The conventional history of animals could be more accurately described as
the history of human ideas about animals. Only in the last few decades have
scholars from a wide variety of disciplines attempted to document the lives of
historical animals in ways that recognize their agency as sentient beings with
complex intelligence. This collection advances the field further, inviting us to
examine our recorded history through an animal-centric lens to discover how
animals have altered the course of our collective past.
The seventeen scholars gathered here present case studies from the Pacific
Ocean, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, involving species ranging from gorillas
and horses to salamanders and orcas. Together they seek out new methodologies,
questions, and stories that challenge accepted historical assumptions
and structures. Drawing upon environmental, social, and political history, the
contributors employ research from such wide-ranging fields as philosophy and
veterinary medicine, embracing a radical interdisciplinarity that is crucial to
understanding our nonhuman past.
Grounded in the knowledge that there has never been a purely human time
in world history, this collection asks and answers an incredibly urgent question
for historians and others interested in the nonhuman past: in an age of mass
extinctions, mass animal captivity, and climate change, when we know much
of what animals have done in the past, which of our activities will we want to
change in the future?