Albrecht Dürer, Head of a Walrus (1521)

The ‘Between Apes and Angels’ Conference is part of an interdisciplinary research project to explore the history of early modern human-animal relations in conjunction with the rich collections available in Edinburgh.

The history of human-animal relations has expanded enormously in recent years, and with it has come a renewed focus on questions concerning humanity, animality, society, culture, and nature. Since early works in the field, such as Clarence Glacken’s Traces on the Rhodian Shore (1967) or Keith Thomas’s Man and the Natural World (1983), attitudes to animals have been interpreted as reflecting as well as constituting social, cultural, and intellectual currents. More recent work, at the hands of such diverse scholars as Erica Fudge, Virginia deJohn Anderson, Mary Fissell, Harriet Ritvo, and Donna Haraway, has expanded this range of perspectives into intellectual, philosophical, cultural, biological, social, medical, and technological spheres, and this shows little sign of slowing down. We believe that this field of inquiry is now sufficiently broad and mature to necessitate a gathering of interested scholars with two key purposes. First, to survey the range and establish the extent and likely future direction of scholarly activity in human-animal relations. Second, to reflect critically on the methodologies, sources, challenges, and research and teaching strategies in the field.

Building on exciting recent research about early modern animals, this project aims to create a dialogue between scholars from a range of humanities disciplines and specialists in animal sciences to gain new insights into the way animals and humans lived together in the early modern world. Of particular importance is an appraisal of the ground covered so far by scholars, consideration of future directions for scholarly inquiry, and exploration of the means, methods, pitfalls, and promise of communicating this exciting work to a diverse range of audiences.

Overall co-ordinators of the project are Drs Stephen Bowd, Jill Burke, Sarah Cockram, and Andrew Wells. See the project website (NB conference details are more up to date here).


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