Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo

Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo

by Nigel Rothfels
     
 

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To modern sensibilities, early zoos seem to have been unnatural places where animals led miserable lives in cramped, wrought-iron cages. Today zoo animals typically wander in open spaces that resemble natural habitats and are enclosed, not by bars, but by moats, cliffs, and other landscape features. Savages and Beasts traces the origins of the modern zoo in

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Overview

To modern sensibilities, early zoos seem to have been unnatural places where animals led miserable lives in cramped, wrought-iron cages. Today zoo animals typically wander in open spaces that resemble natural habitats and are enclosed, not by bars, but by moats, cliffs, and other landscape features. Savages and Beasts traces the origins of the modern zoo in the efforts of nineteenth-century German animal entrepreneur Carl Hagenbeck. How did seemingly enlightened ideas about the role of zoos and the nature of animal captivity develop out of the simple business of placing exotic creatures on public display?

"This is much more than a history of Hagenbeck's many successes. It is an historical explanation for why the environments of zoos today are meant to mask the human character of the places in which animals are forced to live their unnatural lives."— American Historical Review

"A fine read, in which good use of picture archives has complemented the writer's extensive documentary research."— New Scientist

"Rothfels is attuned to the ironies pervading zoos' mediation of people and animals and understands that zoos operate according to entrepreneurial rather than environmental principles."— Chronicle of Higher Education

"Convincingly argues that the image of Hagenbeck as a modern-day Noah, a great animal lover trying to educate the public about the wonders of nature, belies the basic nature of Hagenbeck's enterprise... Rothfels raises questions about past practices of exhibiting animals (and people) and about what zoos of the present are all about."— Journal of the History of Biology

"A fascinating if disturbing tale of animal and human display."— German Studies Review

Nigel Rothfels received his Ph.D. in history from Harvard University and is the director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University, the Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the editor of the interdisciplinary collection Representing Animals.

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Editorial Reviews

Garry Marvin
A lucid, sophisticated, and nuanced account of the role that Carl Hagenbeck played in the history of the public exhibition of animals and people. Nigel Rothfels offers a complex but accessible account of the zoo as a cultural institution that has shaped our ideas about animals. The choice of illustrations is excellent and it should find a wide audience among historians, anthropologists, and general readers interested in the relationship between humans and animals.
As a contribution to the growing literature on the origins and development of the trade in exotic animals and peoples, historian Rothfels tells the story of Carl Hagenbeck, who initiated the idea of modern zoos, with their naturalistic enclosures rather than cages, outside Hamburg, Germany in the middle 19th century. By the 1870s, his business had spread to the worldwide trade in exotic animals and indigenous peoples. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
Chronicle of Higher Education

Rothfels is attuned to the ironies pervading zoos' mediation of people and animals and understands that zoos operate according to entrepreneurial rather than environmental principles... The history of human displays conducted under the guise of anthropology and ethnography has been documented before, but never with such a keen sense of connection between these and zoo operations. Rothfels uses the experience of Carl Hagenbeck, a 19th-century animal dealer and a prominent force behind both zoos and human displays, to document the insidious links between the two enterprises: part of the sordid historical legacy that zoos have never confronted, much less expunged.

Limina

Savages and Beasts is an excellent book: Rothfels' arguments are subtle and well documented, and complemented by an excellent selection of photographs and illustrations.

German Studies Review

A fascinating if disturbing tale of animal and human display.

Commonweal

Rothfels's work elucidates how zoos offer a carefully scripted version of how human beings should understand animals.

Journal of the History of Biology

Convincingly argues that the image of Hagenbeck as a modern-day Noah, a great animal lover trying to educate the public about the wonders of nature, belies the basic nature of Hagenbeck's enterprise. That enterprise had very little to do with love for animals, and everything to do with making money. More generally, Rothfels raises questions about past practices of exhibiting animals (and people) and about what zoos of the present are all about.

International Zoo News

It is Nigel Rothfels' great service to show how Carl Hagenbeck's growing experience in mounting his ethnographic spectacles, and his observation of the public's reception of them, led to ideas culminating in a new kind of zoological park... Rothfels has written a genuinely important book for anyone interested in zoos, his perspective is new and convincing.

New Scientist

Rothfels... focuses on the 19th-century origins of modern zoos and the man who made it all happen. Carl Hagenbeck, a German animal dealer and zoo visionary, was the owner of the first zoo without bars, and he invented the use of a moated display and many other now-standard techniques. Savages and Beasts is a fine read, in which good use of picture archives has complemented the writer's extensive documentary research.

Animal Welfare

The book is a good read and provides an interesting historical perspective... In short, this is an interesting book; it tells the story of [Carl] Hagenbeck, his peoples and animals from a slightly different perspective.

American Historical Review

This is much more than a history of Hagenbeck's many successes. It is an historical explanation for why the environments of zoos today are meant to mask the human character of the places in which animals are forced to live their unnatural lives.

Anthrozoös

Important, timely, and stimulating... A rich source on so much; Rothfel's account of Hagenbeck's consolidation of the animal trade, for instance, is exemplary, the mobilization of much research into a lucid exposition of overarching trends.

Anthrozoos
Important, timely, and stimulating... A rich source on so much; Rothfel's account of Hagenbeck's consolidation of the animal trade, for instance, is exemplary, the mobilization of much research into a lucid exposition of overarching trends.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780801898099
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
08/01/2008
Series:
Animals, History, Culture
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
1,230,677
File size:
6 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Garry Marvin

A lucid, sophisticated, and nuanced account of the role that Carl Hagenbeck played in the history of the public exhibition of animals and people. Nigel Rothfels offers a complex but accessible account of the zoo as a cultural institution that has shaped our ideas about animals. The choice of illustrations is excellent and it should find a wide audience among historians, anthropologists, and general readers interested in the relationship between humans and animals.

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