Category Archives: History

Ann C. Colley on Wild Animal Skins in Victorian Britain

 

Ann C ColleyPosted by Ann Donahue, Publisher

Ann C. Colley (pictured) talks to Ann Donahue about her new book, Wild Animal Skins in Victorian Britain: Zoos, Collections, Portraits, and Maps

How did you come up with the idea for this book?

I had just finished my Victorians in the Mountains: Sinking the Sublime, which had not only appealed to my love of landscape and admiration for climbers, but had also taken me to libraries and clubs on both sides of the Atlantic. It was when I entered the Wellcome Institute on Euston Road that something clicked. The Institute had launched a special exhibit on “Skin” that I found absolutely fascinating. I recall seeing pieces of tattooed skin taken from sailors in the nineteenth century and wondering about the role of skin and identity. Knowing that the role of skin in human portraiture during the Victorian era has been well rehearsed, I turned my thinking to animal skins and portraiture. Before I knew it, I was launched.

Wild animal skins in Victorian BritainYour book connects to so many areas of current interest in the humanities, including animal studies, museums, collecting, sensory studies, and the history of science. Were you surprised at the multiple directions in which your research led you?

No. Indeed I was drawn to the subject because it would do just that. Cultural studies are appealing because they engage so many intersecting disciplines and take one into unusual archives and libraries not open to the general public. Once I began accumulating materials, I immediately saw that the project would fit into the current interest in animal studies, museum studies, theories of portraiture, British colonialism, collecting, theories of touch and skin, as well as in history of science.

You came upon some fascinating characters in the course of your research, including the Earl of Derby. Can you say a few words about him as a collector and his association with Edward Lear?

For several years I have been buying Lear’s watercolor sketches as well as lithographs of his natural history paintings. Through this interest, of course, I knew that between 1831 and 1837, he was employed by the 12th Earl of Derby and later by the Earl’s son to sketch and paint portraits of the wild animals and exotic birds kept on the estate, which was the site of England’s largest private menagerie. To amass their amazing collection, the 12th and the 13th Earls commissioned collectors and agents from all over the world. The resulting correspondence between the 13th Earl of Derby and these agents makes for incredible reading. Lear was privy to this world and to those who worked for and were related to the Earl of Derby.

I was fascinated to learn that collecting animal skins was not just the prerogative of the privileged classes as I would have thought that collecting these specimens would be extremely costly. How common was this form of collecting among working- and middle-class individuals?

There are several studies of the working class and their interest in science, particularly those that discuss the fact that mill owners and manufacturers often encouraged their employees to learn as much as they could about the sciences so as to create a more knowledgeable workforce. Jane Camerini, John M. MaKenzie, E.P. Thompson, and Katie Whitaker, among others, have all written on the topic. For me, the most convincing and vivid evidence came from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Mary Barton in which she makes a point of mentioning that the working-class men of Manchester were “warm and devoted followers” of the “more popularly interesting branches of natural history.” They “knew the name and habitat of every plant within a day’s walk from their dwelling.” Her character Job Legh, a self-educated spinner, who has access to the Liverpool docks where sailors would return with exotic specimens, is one of these “warm and devoted followers.”

In some ways, the interest in animal skins strikes me as analogous to the Victorians’ passion for travel writing. What was it about these specimens that was so appealing?

I, myself, travel to exotic places and write accounts of my sometimes disastrous adventures and have found that the wild life of a place is what defines the experience for me. When I was working on Wild Animal Skins, I discovered a similar impulse was at work among the Victorian public, who were fascinated by exotic birds and animals in faraway lands and would go to great lengths to see exhibits of these, to collect them (though I hasten to add I do not own any taxidermy specimens!), and to learn as much as it could about them. As I say in the introduction to my book “skin was not only a basic ingredient of portraiture but also the site of encounter with the exotic world.”

Many people would find a home adorned with animal skins from so-called exotic locales shocking and collecting such specimens is often illegal. Was the collecting of wild animal skins controversial during the Victorian era?

No. Unlike many, perhaps most, people today, the Victorians experienced little sense of guilt in looking at, owning, arranging, and admiring stuffed birds and animals. They rarely, if at all, thought about extinction. Even Darwin shot the last fox on the Galapagos Island. For them the distant world was full of plenty. That is not to say the Victorians were insensitive to the pain inflicted on animals. One has to remember that it is in the Victorian period that the antivivisectionists were active. I am not sure why, but taxidermy is coming back in style. One can go to a booth at a market in London to learn how to remove the skin of a bird or a mouse and stuff it. At a wedding recently I met a person from Brooklyn who practices taxidermy in her apartment. Skin will always elicit pleasure, disgust, and curiosity.

About the Author: Ann C. Colley is a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the State University College of New York at Buffalo. She has published numerous articles and books, including Victorians in the Mountains, Robert Louis Stevenson and the Colonial Imagination, Nostalgia and Recollection in Victorian Culture, The Search for Synthesis in Literature and Art: The Paradox of Space, Edward Lear and the Critics, and Tennyson and Madness.

Choice Outstanding Academic Title awards for 2014

Posted by Emily Ferro, Marketing Coordinator

Ashgate is thrilled to announce that Choice has honored three Ashgate books by naming them Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014. The recognized titles are Decolonizing Social Work; Ageing, Ritual and Social Change: Comparing the secular and religious in Eastern and Western Europe; and The Ashgate Research Companion to the Thirty Years’ War. Books recognized by Choice display ‘excellence in presentation and scholarship’ and provide content of significance in their field of study. Out of the thousands of titles reviewed by Choice in 2014, only 10% were celebrated as Outstanding Academic Titles.

Decolonizing social workDecolonizing Social Work by Mel Gray, John Coates, Michael Yellow Bird, and Tiani Hetherington features articles written by Indigenous and non-Indigenous social work scholars examining local cultures, beliefs, values, and practices as central to decolonization. Choice notes that the volume is “a sturdy reminder of the vast social justice work still to do in the world.” Through careful amalgamation of the work of the essayists, Gray, Coates, Yellow Bird, and Hetherington interrogate trends, issues, and debates in Indigenous social work theory, practice methods, and education models. Choice compliments the book’s readability and its glossary, and highly recommends it to all academics, libraries, and practitioners.

Ageing ritual and social changeAgeing, Ritual and Social Change by Peter Coleman, Daniela Koleva, and Joanna Bornat explores European changes in religious and secular beliefs and practices related to life passages. “The editors and contributors deserve appreciation for undertaking this challenging comparative project,” writes Choice, calling the collection “A significant multidisciplinary contribution to the literature on aging, religion/ritual, comparative oral history, and social change.” Drawing on fascinating oral histories of older people’s memories in both Eastern and Western Europe, this book presents illuminating views on peoples’ quests for existential meaning in later life. Choice highly recommends Ageing, Ritual and Social Change for upper-division undergraduates and up.

Ashgate research companion to the thirty years warThe final book named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2014 is The Ashgate Research Companion to the Thirty Years’ War by Olaf Asbach and Peter Schröder. A comprehensive and authoritative overview of research on one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, Choice notes that this book “will serve for some time as an essential starting point for research on the origins, conduct, and legacies of the wars and the peace.” By combining the work of key international scholars, this research companion explores the complexities of the conflict using an innovative comparative approach. Choice deems this book “Essential,” recommending it to all upper-division undergraduates and up.

Congratulations to all of the honorees.

For a listing of all of our recent prizewinners, visit www.ashgate.com/prizewinners.  

Call for papers, AHA 2016 – Women & Diplomatic Culture in Early Modernity

Posted by Erika Gaffney, Publishing Manager

Call for papers, AHA 2016 – Women & Diplomatic Culture in Early Modernity (Organizers:  Silvia Z. Mitchell & Erika Gaffney)

Abstracts are invited for papers about “Women & Diplomatic Culture in Early Modernity,” for a possible SSEMW Co-Sponsored Session at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in Atlanta, January 2016.

We seek papers from a range of disciplines — including, but not limited to, history, art history, literary studies, court studies, and historical geography — which address the nexus between early modern women and diplomacy in any geographical region or culture, during the time period c. 1400-1700.  Papers might focus on:

  • Women as diplomats
  • Wives of diplomats, as effecting or affected by diplomatic culture
  • Servants, landladies, courtesans, or other roles women may take in the context of a diplomatic entourage
  • Dynastic diplomatic cultures
  • Women and gift-giving practices
  • Female diplomatic networks (royal and aristocratic marriages, letter writing, gift exchanges, diplomatic visits)
  • Female diplomatic spaces: courts, households, convents
  • Fashion and diplomacy

Abstracts (up to 300 words) for papers 20 minutes in length should be submitted by January 13, 2015, by email, to Silvia Mitchell (mitch131@purdue.edu) and Erika Gaffney (egaffney@ashgate.com).

100th volume published in the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series

Posted by Hattie Wilson, Marketing Executive

Autobiographical writing by early modern hispanic womenAshgate will publish the one hundredth title in the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series in January 2015. The series editors, Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger produced their first volume in 2000 (Maternal Measures, Naomi J. Miller and Naomi Yavneh). Fifteen years later, we can announce the one hundredth title is Autobiographical Writing by Early Modern Hispanic Women by Elizabeth Teresa Howe. The work focuses on the contributions of women writers to the study of life writing, and offers a symmetrical theme to the initial volume in the series.

We would like to offer our sincere congratulations to Allyson Poska and Abby Zanger, as well as thanking them for their dedication to their role. To view the Women and Gender in the Early Modern World Series in its entirety, and to read an interview with the series editors, please click here.

Forthcoming titles in the series:

 

Between apes and angels, animals and Ashgate: authors to attend animal studies conference at University of Edinburgh

Posted by Ally Berthiaume, Editorial Assistant

Animal Studies is a trending topic in academe with an increased production of literature across the disciplines. Ashgate is positioned within this rising canon, having contributed at least twenty titles to this growing body of animal-studies scholarship. Among these is Ashgate’s newly published collection, Animals and Early Modern Identity, edited by Pia F. Cuneo.Animals and early modern identity

Animals and Early Modern Identity spans the globe, including works from scholars in the United States, Europe and Africa. Apart from the range of the contributors’ geographical locations, there is also great diversity among the animal species appearing within these essays – from horses, dogs, and pigs to rhinoceroses, sea monsters, and other creatures. As Cuneo succinctly puts it in her introduction:

The wide array of disciplines, geographies, and species represented in the volume speaks to the vigor of intellectual inquiry into the subject of animal and nonhuman animal interaction in the early modern period (1400–1700).

Holding it all together, she asserts, is the issue of identity. This collection investigates what kinds of identities were developed by the interaction between human and animal; how these were expressed, for what reason, and with who were they shared. Each essay centers on the ways in which humans use animals to say something about themselves.

The expansion of ‘animal studies’ as a field, and the extent of the range of inquiry contained within it, is evidenced not only by the number and variety of academic publications, but also by a proliferation of conference panels – and sometimes whole conferences –  dedicated to the theme.  The past year or so has seen a number of these, crossing multiple disciplines and time periods, culminating this week with:  Animals and Critical Heritage and Between Apes & Angels: Human and Animal in the Early Modern World.

The latter conference features several contributing authors to Animals and Early Modern Identity as speakers, thus underlining the timeliness and significance of the volume.

Pia F. Cuneo is Professor of Art History at the University of Arizona, USA.  Her current work focuses on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century hippology, and she competes locally in dressage.

To see other Animal Studies titles click here.

Ashgate authors Iain J. M. Robertson and Richard A. Marsden shortlisted for the Saltire Society Literary Awards

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

Ashgate authors Iain J. M. Robertson and Richard A. Marsden were among those honoured at Scotland’s prestigious Saltire Society Literary Awards on Tuesday, 11th November 2014. Robertson and Marsden were shortlisted for the Research Book of the Year Award and History Book of the Year Award respectively, in the company of acclaimed academics and famed fiction writers, all of whom reside in Scotland, are of Scottish descent, or take a Scottish figure, historical event, or issue as their subject.

In a true celebration of Scottish literary talent, the Awards ceremony took place at Dynamic Earth, an iconic visitor attraction set at the heart of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site, and was supported by the British Council Scotland, Waterstones, the Scottish Historical Review and the National Library of Scotland, amongst others.

Cosmo Innes and the defence of Scotlands pastBoth authors enrich our understandings of crucial moments in Scotland’s history. Marsden considers the work of the influential antiquarian Cosmo Innes (1798-1874) to answer the question of how Victorian Scots reconciled an independent history with a unionist present. Innes, a prolific editor of medieval and early modern documents relating to Scotland’s parliament, universities and church, operated within an elite network, had access to the leading intellectuals and politicians of the day, and had significant influence on a contemporary understanding of Scottish history. Marsden’s ‘masterly scholarly monograph’ (Stefan Berger, Ruhr-Universitaet Bochum, Germany) therefore provides a window onto the ways in which the Scots viewed their own ‘national past.’ You can read more about Cosmo Innes, and its relationship with Scotland’s contested identity in the 21st century, here.

Lanscapes of Protest in the Scottish HighlandsRobertson’s ‘critical landmark in protest history’ (Carl Griffin, University of Sussex, UK) draws on oral testimony and individual case studies to provide a lens through which to explore the fluid and contingent nature of protest performances. He turns to the Scottish Highlands in November 1918. Agrarian change threatened a wave of unemployment and eviction for the land-working population, and those who had served during the First World War found themselves returning to social and economic conditions that should have been left behind. Widespread social protest rapidly followed. Robertson navigates these events in order to illustrate how a range of forms of protest demanded attention (unlike the earlier Land Wars period, these protests were successful) and illustrate the formative role of landscape in people’s lifespaces.

We’d like to extend our congratulations to Richard, Iain, and all the other winners and shortlisted authors honoured at the awards.

Richard A. Marsden works for Cardiff University where he teaches History and coordinates a foundation pathway enabling adults without formal qualifications to progress onto degrees in the historical disciplines. More information about Cosmo Innes and the Defence of Scotland’s Past c. 1825-1875

Iain J. M. Robertson is Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Gloucestershire. More information about Landscapes of Protest in the Scottish Highlands after 1914: The Later Highland Land Wars

Honorable Mention for Cruz and Stampino’s ‘Early Modern Habsburg Women’ at the SSEMW Book Awards

Posted by Beth Whalley, Marketing Executive

Early Modern Habsburg WomenWe’re delighted to announce that the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women has awarded an honourable mention to Early Modern Habsburg Women: Transnational Contexts, Cultural Conflicts, Dynastic Continuities (2013) in the category of Best Collaborative Project in their 2013 Book Awards. The society awards this prize to the best edited collection or multi-authored volume on women and gender in the early modern period.

The committee declared that they were particularly impressed by:

“how the collection gathers together in one place essays on six remarkable women of the Spanish and Austrian Habsburg dynasties. The transnational, comparative, and interdisciplinary scope of the essays illuminate the complex negotiations performed by these powerful women who crossed borders defined by gender, geography, language, culture, and politics. The volume exemplifies the richness of women’s history that travels across and between political, disciplinary, and methodological boundaries.”

The six Habsburg women examined in the volume – queens, duchesses, vicereines, and even a nun – had a lasting impact on the diplomatic map of early modern Europe. Through an investigation of archival documents, pictorial and historical accounts, literature, and correspondence, as well as cultural artifacts such as paintings, jewellery and clothing, contributors bring to light the real power of early modern Habsburg women as they moved from court to court and transferred their cultural, religious and diplomatic traditions.

The volume, edited by Anne J. Cruz and Maria Galli Stampino, boasts a variety of contributors from across the globe, and we would like to congratulate each of them for this latest achievement. This isn’t the first time that an Ashgate book co-edited by Anne J. Cruz has been honoured by the SSEMW; Women’s Literacy in Early Modern Spain and the New World (2011) won the prize for Best Collaborative Project in 2011.

About the Editors: Anne J. Cruz is Professor of Spanish and Cooper Fellow at the University of Miami. Maria Galli Stampino is Professor of Italian and French also at the University of Miami.

Contributors: Anne J. Cruz; Joseph F. Patrouch; Maria Galli Stampino; Blythe Alice Raviola; Magdalena S. Sánchez; Vanessa de Cruz Medina; Félix Labrador Arroyo; María Cruz de Carlos Varona; Silvia Z. Mitchell; Mercedes Llorente; Laura Oliván Santaliestra; Cordula van Wyhe.

More information about Early Modern Habsburg Women: Transnational Contexts, Cultural Conflicts, Dynastic Continuities