HIS10460 Animal Histories

Academic Year 2023/2024

*** Not available in the academic year indicated above ***

This module examines the history of animals from the earliest human civilisations to the present. In spite of their crucial role in human history, animals have not traditionally been portrayed as central historical actors. This module argues for the importance of animals in the history of human society and culture. It examines the evolution of human and animal relationships, the role of animals in agriculture and society, animals in war, conquest, and empire, and the interconnected histories of human, animal and environmental health. It analyses the historical construction of the categories of ‘human’ and ‘animal’, and its implications for medicine, science, and animal rights. Some of the themes examined include a history of domestication, animals as vectors of illness and plague in the Middle Ages, the Scientific Revolution and animal experimentation, the discovery of America and the Columbian Exchange, the emergence of animal rights in the 19th century, and animals, extinction and climate change in the 20th and 21st centuries. It also examines the problems associated with reconstructing the voice of the animal in historical sources. This module incorporates cultural, social, and intellectual histories, as well as the history of science.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students should be able to:

- Understand the central role of animals in human history
- Assess the notion of animals as historical agents of change
- Demonstrate understanding of the historiography of animal histories
- Understand the historical construction of ‘human’, ‘animal’, and ‘vermin’
- Write scholarly essays appropriate for a Level One student of History

Indicative Module Content:

Lecture 1. Introduction: Why look at Animals?
Lecture 2. Food, Labour, Love, Leisure: Hunting and Domestication from Prehistory to Antiquity
Lecture 3. Aristotle to Aquinas: Animals and Natural History to the Middle Ages
Lecture 4. Becoming Vermin: Animals, Disease, and Plague
Lecture 5. The Columbian Exchange: Animals and the Transformation of the American Continent, 1492-1700
Lecture 6. Beasts of War and Empire: Conquest and Colonisation, 16th-20th centuries
Lecture 7. Animals and Science: Experimentation, the Beast-Machine, and the Role of Animals in Modern Medicine, c.1500-c.1800
Lecture 8. Animal Pain: Veterinary Medicine, Animal Rights, and Intelligence, 19th-20th centuries
Lecture 9. The Sixth Extinction: Animals, Environment, and Climate Change in the Anthropocene
Lecture 10. Conclusion: The Connected Histories of Human and Animal

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Students will learn through a combination of lectures, group discussions, and the completion of dedicated research essays.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment: Mid-Term Assignment: 1,000-word essay Unspecified n/a Graded No


Essay: End-of-Semester Essay: 2,000-word essay Week 12 n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

- Feedback on the Mid-Term Assignment is given in writing on the returned hard-copy - Feedback on the End-of-Semester Essay is given by appointment in one-to-one meetings

Name Role
Dr Edward Collins Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.

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