The flourishing and challenging field of animal-human history

Fudge, Erica (2019) The flourishing and challenging field of animal-human history. [Review]

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    This is a book review of: Hilda Kean and Philip Howell (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Animal-Human History. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2019. 560 pp When I was doing my PhD at the University of Sussex in the early 1990s, I remember being approached by another postgrad in the School of English and American Studies: “Are you the person doing the PhD on bear baiting?” he asked. When I answered in the affirmative, he noted: “It’s nice that people can still do PhDs like that.” He could only conceive of what I was doing as antiquarian—a gathering and marshalling of facts, nothing more. A few years later, on finishing my PhD, I found myself on the job market, getting long-listed for some posts and short-listed for fewer, and failing to find employment. What I need, I recall saying to a friend, is for a job on bear baiting to come up. Something along those lines did actually appear—not quite bear baiting, but a post at Bath Spa University College (as it was called then) on the early modern period with a particular interest in human relationships with the natural world: if I can’t get this job, I remember thinking, I’ll never get a job. I managed to get it, and have—fortunately—been employed ever since. It felt like a one-off back then to see a job with that focus, but things are changing, and have changed quite rapidly. As Kean and Howell’s (2019) new collection shows, not only are there a lot of people working in the field of what they term “animal-human history” (the footnotes and references here offer a substantial and extremely helpful sense of the amount of work in the field), the range of work taking place is varied, in relation to disciplinary direction, focus, and theoretical engagement. All of these elements are visible here.