Animal Studies Journal


[Review] Mieke Roscher, André Krebber, and Brett Mizelle, editors. Handbook of Historical Animal Studies. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2021. 637 pp. In their introduction to the volume under review, ‘Writing History after the Animal Turn? An Introduction to Historical Animal Studies’ (1–18), which uses Harriet Ritvo’s 2007 article ‘On the Animal Turn’ as a key reference point, the editors describe as follows the main goal of and broader rationale for the book: "the discourses of human-animal studies and historical animal studies, just like all the other disciplines involved in the reevaluation of the lives of animals and our relationship with them, past and present, are not identical. Rather, they inform one another. What we aim at with this handbook, then, is to gather and make accessible the contribution of historical research to the field of human-animal studies as well as the contribution of human-animal studies to the study of history. History as a discipline and scholarly venture, in other words, can no [more] ignore animals than animal studies can history." (3–4). As the editors and also a number of the contributors underscore, however, to bring about this rapprochement between animal studies and history, it is not enough to study ‘the lives, experiences, and deaths of animals [as] a powerful lens to understand and explain human histories, ideas, and practices’ (3), even if in the recording and interpretation of history humans remain ‘an omnipresent factor’ (4). Rather, animals’ own histories must take centre stage, to the fullest extent possible – given that the discourse of historiography is inescapably mediated by human perspectives.