Between Apes and Angels: Human and Animal in the Early Modern World

Event Date: 
04 Dec 2014 to 05 Dec 2014

An interdisciplinary conference to be held at the University of Edinburgh.

Project website  
Conference blog 



Keynote lectures: Harriet Ritvo (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Louise Hill Curth (University of Winchester)

Confirmed Speakers: Ingrid Tague (University of Denver) Juliana Schiesari (University of California, Davis) Karen Edwards (University of Exeter) Peter Edwards (University of Roehampton) Richard Almond (Independent scholar) Susan Wiseman (Birkbeck, University of London)



Call for Papers

*** Please submit a 250-word abstract and a brief biographical note or one-page CV to the organisers: Andrew Wells ( and Sarah Cockram ( by 31 October 2013. *** 

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. The conference will examine the theme of human-animal relations and related topics, such as race, sexuality, zoology, natural history, theological and philosophical perspectives (to name but a few), between c.1500 and the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species (1859). 

Early-career scholars are particularly encouraged to submit proposals for papers. It is intended that an edited collection of selected papers will be prepared for publication. The conference will be linked to an exhibition at the Talbot Rice Gallery on the theme of early modern human-animal relations showcasing breath-taking objects and works of art from diverse collections in the city of Edinburgh. 

Conference Themes

Anticipated themes of the conference may include:

  • Human-animal relations of all kinds
  • Philosophy, religion, and intellectual history
  • Consciousness, sentience, language, and the soul
  • Bodies, human and animal
  • Animals and people of the New and Old Worlds
  • Classification
  • Breeding and nationhood
  • Race
  • Exotica and exploration
  • Collecting and exhibiting
  • Curatorship
  • Fairs, freakshows and buffoons

We are also particularly interested in papers discussing how we attempt to 'do' the history of human-animal relations today.

  • What is the state of the field?
  • What are our methodologies?
  • What problems do we encounter? How can/do we overcome them?
  • Why study human-animal relations? What specific social/cultural/political/intellectual (etc) consequences are there to this branch of intellectual inquiry?
  • What do we learn from other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences?
  • How do we work with the natural sciences?
  • How do we teach this history?
  • How do we communicate or show this history beyond the classroom, for instance through public events, broadcast media, the arts, or exhibitions?


A limited number of postgraduate bursaries are available for eligible candidates. Please include a one-page letter of application with your paper proposal. 


Submission date for papers: 
31 Oct 2013