Course Meeting Times

Lecture: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Syllabus Archive

The following syllabi come from a variety of different terms. They illustrate the evolution of this course over time, and are intended to provide alternate views into the instruction of this course.

Fall 2010, Harriet Ritvo (PDF)

Fall 2008, Harriet Ritvo (PDF)

Fall 2007, Harriet Ritvo (PDF)

Fall 2005, Harriet Ritvo (PDF)


A historical survey of the ways that people have interacted with their closest animal relatives, for example: hunting, domestication of livestock, exploitation of animal labor, scientific study of animals, display of exotic and performing animals, and pet keeping. Themes include changing ideas about animal agency and intelligence, our moral obligations to animals, and the limits imposed on the use of animals.


The following books are recommended for purchase:

Amazon logo Franklin, Sarah. Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. ISBN: 9780822339205.

Amazon logo Guerrini, Anita. Experimenting with Humans and Animals: From Galen to Animal Rights. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780801871979.

Amazon logo Hearne, Vicki. Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing, 2007. ISBN: 9781602390027.

Amazon logo Ritvo, Harriet. The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. ISBN: 9780674037076.

Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty. Norwich, England: Jarrold & Sons, 1877.

Amazon logo Vialles, Noelie. Animal to Edible. Translated by J. A. Underwood. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780521466721.

Wells, H. G. The Island of Doctor Moreau. New York, NY: Stone & Kimball, 1896.

Amazon logo Capek, Karel. War with the Newts. Translated by Ewald Osers. Highland Park, NJ: Catbird Press, 1990. ISBN: 9780945774105.

The schedule of readings is available on the Readings page, as well as additional required readings for graduate students. (Of course, undergraduates are very welcome to read them too.) Suggestions for supplementary reading and related Web sites are listed on the Related Resources page.

Written Assignments

A research paper will be due at the end of the semester—12 pages for undergraduates, 25 pages for graduate students. A proposal will be due in Week 4. An annotated bibliography is due in Week 8. I will be happy to read and comment on drafts if they are submitted at least two weeks before the final paper is due. For inspiration, some topics students chose in Fall 2010 are provided:

  • Taming Tsavo: Lions, Laborers, and the Lunatic Line
  • Portraits of Nature: The Parlor Aquarium and the Interiorization of Victorian Life
  • Resurrecting the Pleistocene
  • Marshall Hall and the Creation of a Painless Animal
  • The Human Ideology of Domestication: Creating Dogs for Specific Functions
  • The Furor Over Fur

In addition, each week students will hand in a brief (1-2 pages) response to the readings.

Non-Written Assignments

Students will give a brief oral report on the progress of their research in Week 8 and a 15-minute presentation in class during Week 13.


Grading will be based on the three written assignments, the oral presentation, and class participation (including informal reflection/response papers), weighted as follows:

Research Paper 1/2
Oral Presentation 1/6
Class Participation 1/3

Things to Remember

Written assignments should represent original and individual work.

Assignments are to be handed in on time. If an extension becomes necessary it should be requested ahead of the due date. Otherwise, lateness will be penalized.

Attendance is important. Not all the material to be covered in class is included in the readings. Be sure to bring your copy of the readings to class.