The evaluation of the place of humans in the natural world is one of the most timely pre-occupations of research in the 21st-century humanities and social sciences. This has lead specifically to the study of the relationship between humans and non-human animals and the establishment of a new field of interdisciplinary research, animals studies, which, as some commentators ascertain, has already lead to an ‘animal turn’ in the social sciences and humanities. The early modern period is particularly fascinating to historians of human-animal relations because of two phenomena which frame the period : a) the journeys of discovery which began bringing a whole new world of animals to Europe from the late 15th century onwards, and b) the wide-ranging changes in the economy and urban life which in the late 18th century began transforming the relationship of Europeans to their animal workforce and to animals as sources of raw materials.
The history of the human-animal relationship presents historians with particular challenges. We quickly arrive at questions which are anything but easy to answer for our own period: what differentiates human from animal actors? To what extent can the ‘animal perspective’ be recreated? And why does animal symbolism continue to be such a persistant part of European culture? How do we draw the line between us and other species?
In this course, we will examine how humans and non-human animals interacted in a variety of contexts early modern Europe: the exploitation of animals for work, as materials and for food, but also their employment in entertainment (racing, the theatre) and as status symbols, gifts and cherished pets.
To do so, we will be reading a wide range of contemporary sources (travelers’ accounts, breeding manuals, treatises of natural history, memoirs) as well as secondary literature from several related disciplines (sociology, anthropology and life sciences).
 F. Berkhout, M. Leach, and I. Scoones, 'Shifting perspectives in environmental social science' in Negotiating Environmental Change: New Perspectives from Social Science, ed. F. Berkhout, M. Leach, and I. Scoones (Cheltenham, 2003), 1-31, I. Scoones, 'New Ecology and the Social Sciences: What Prospects for a Fruitful Engagement?', Annual Review of Anthropology 28 (1999), 479-507, I. Vaccaro, Eric Alden Smith, and Shankar Aswani (eds.), Environmental Social Sciences: Methods and Research Design (Cambridge, 2010).
 L. Kalof and A. Fitzgerald (eds.), The Animals Reader: The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings (2007), H. Ritvo, 'On the Animal Turn', Daedalus, Vol. 136, No. 4, On the Public Interest (Fall, 2007), pp. 118-122, 136 (2007), 118-122, K. Weil, 'A Report on the Animal Turn', Differences. A journal of feminist cultural studies 21 (2010), 1-23.