HST 456/533: Animals in American History

Poster for the course HST 456/533: Animals in American History features various historic images of animals and people.

Spring 2020 (January 13-April 29, 2020): In-Person/Online

Over the past decade, the study of animals as historical subjects has gone mainstream. Studying animals as historical actors has expanded and deepened the practice of history from below. It has enhanced understandings of historical relationships between humans, non-humans, and ecosystems – the very core of environmental history. But how do historians do it?

We will historicize animals as shapers of American history focusing on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Historical methods interrogate who has been considered a person or being with agency and who has not, issues that have contributed to bigger debates on human and non-human rights, consciousness, and nature. To inspire students’ original research, we will examine how practicing historians have studied working animals, livestock, animals as entertainment and pets, feral animals, and urban animals as significant to the American past. Students take a solidly interdisciplinary approach to comprehend the multiple angles of animal history.

Books assigned:

  • Frederick L. Brown, The City is More Than Human: An Animal History of Seattle (University of Washington Press, 2019). ISBN: 978-0295745718.
  • Jason Colby, Orca: How We Came to Know and Love the Ocean’s Greatest Predator (Oxford University Press, 2018). ISBN 978-0190673093.
  • Susan Nance, Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013). ISBN 978-1421408293.
  • Andrew A. Robichaud, Animal City: The Domestication of America (Harvard University Press, 2019). ISBN: 978-0674919365.

Additional readings include:

  • Diana Ahmad
  • Mia Bay
  • Etienne Benson
  • Tom Berendt
  • Bénédicte Boisseron
  • Joanna Bourke
  • Concepción Cortés Zulueta
  • Helen Cowie
  • Vinciane Despret
  • Michael Engelhard
  • Ken Erickson
  • Erica Fudge
  • Abraham Gibson
  • Pekka Hämäläinen
  • Donna Haraway
  • Andrew Isenberg
  • Hilda Kean
  • Susan E. Lederer
  • Randy Malamud
  • Chris Otter
  • Gervase Phillips
  • Karen A. Rader
  • Harriet Ritvo
  • Meisha Rosenberg
  • Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Kanzi Wamba, Panbanisha Wamba, and Nyota Wamba
  • Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
  • Jasmine Spencer
  • Aimee Swenson
  • Zoe Todd
  • Brett L. Walker
  • Laurie Winn Carlson