Abstract

The biographies of animal celebrities published by the historians John Simons and Eric Baratay aim to place animals in and of themselves at the center of academic narratives. Both excavate the lived experiences concealed behind official discourses and collective representations, notably by relying on cross-fertilization with ethological research. They unveil the ways in which information was reshaped in order to portray animal celebrities as benevolent members of human-animal communities, and thereby shed light on the mechanics of animal commodification. The close examination of a few individual animal trajectories enlightens the condition of many historical animals living under human tutelage in the 19th and early 20th century and highlights long-term historical evolutions, such as the succession of animal cultures and generations largely determined by human actions.

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