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Animals in Circulation: The “Prehistory” of Modern Zoos

Animals in Circulation: The “Prehistory” of Modern Zoos

(p.15) Chapter One Animals in Circulation: The “Prehistory” of Modern Zoos
The Ark and Beyond
Anita GuerriniMichael A. Osborne
University of Chicago Press

The “prehistory” of zoos encompasses a wide variety of captivity of exotic animals in Europe. Such animals had value because they were foreign, and they functioned both as status objects and, to naturalists such as Aristotle, as scientific objects. Menageries before 1800 served mainly for aristocratic display, but some, such as Louis XIV’s at Versailles in France, also provided research subjects for the Paris Academy of Sciences. Conservation at early modern zoos meant keeping animals alive for human uses. However, the scientific work associated with zoos and with natural history collections also increased knowledge of these animals, eventually leading to a recognition of the necessity for conservation in the modern sense. France provides a case study of the interactions of government, science, and the public surrounding zoos in the nineteenth century. The Revolution ushered in a reconsideration of the place of animals in nature and new ways to exploit them. As France reconstituted a colonial empire, diplomats, scientists, and landowners aimed to acclimatize exotic animals in the service of domestic agriculture, with zoos as the experimental space. The acclimatization society in Paris eventually transformed into a lobbying group for the preservation and protection of nature.

Keywords:   acclimatization, exotic, France, menagerie, natural history, instrumentalism, Versailles

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