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Unit information: Wild Things: Humans and other animals in History in 2020/21

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Unit name Wild Things: Humans and other animals in History
Unit code HIST20115
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Andy Flack
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

We tend to approach history from a human perspective. But what happens if we step beyond our own species, and include animals in history? How does an animal focus reframe our understanding of war? Why does looking at tigers, elephants and snakes change our understanding of colonisation? Animal history has emerged as an important area in recent decades. Extending from the early modern period to the beginning of the twenty-first century, this unit aims to explore not only the roles of animals in the past, but the capacity for non-humans to make history. Topics include (but are not limited to) animals as entertainment, animals as food, and animals as objects of science. During the course of their studies, students will engage with an array of source materials, including film, fiction, and art, as well as archival materials and Bristol-based arts and heritage organisations. Through this unit students will learn that by looking at animals we stand to gain new perspectives on the past.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

  1. Understand the ways in which animals have played an active part in the past.
  2. Approach a range of historical events and topics from an animal history perspective.
  3. Discuss and evaluate the key historiographical debates surrounding animal history.
  4. Understand and interpret primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate specific and more general historical points
  5. Present their research and judgements in written and oral forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to level I

Teaching Information

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Information

1 x 2500-word Essay (50%) [ILOs 1-5]; 1 x Timed Assessment (50%) [ILOs 1-5]; 1 x Formative Oral Presentation [ILO 5]

Reading and References

Harriet Ritvo, The Animal Estate: the English and other creatures in the Victorian Age (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1987).

Erica Fudge, Animal (London: Reaktion, 2002)

Nigel Rothfels (ed.), Representing Animals (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002)

Linda Kalof and Brigitte Resl (eds.), A Cultural History of Animals, Volumes 1-6 (London: Bloomsbury, 2007)

John Berger, ‘Why Look at Animals?’ in About Looking  (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980).