Animal History

This review reflects on animal history as a subfield of the discipline of history and presents its main arguments and future tasks. Its main goal is to identify the new research prospects and potentials proposed by the book edited by Susan Nance, The Historical Animal. These include such topics as the problem of “the animal's point of view,” animal agency (animals understood as “historical” agents and actors), the problem of identifying traces of animal actions in “anthropocentric” archives and searching for new historical sources (including animals’ testimonies). It also explores methodological difficulties, especially with the idea of the historicization of animals and the possible merger of the humanities and social sciences with the natural and life sciences. The review considers how studying animals forces scholars to rethink to its foundations history as a discipline. It claims that the most progressive proposals are coming from scholars (many of whom are historians) who advocate radical interdisciplinarity. The authors are not only interested in merging history with specific sciences (such as animal psychology, ecology, ethology, evolutionary biology, and zoology), but also question basic assumptions of the discipline: the epistemic authority claimed by historians for building knowledge of the past as well as the human epistemic authority for creating such knowledge. In this context several questions emerge: can we achieve “interspecies competence” (Erica Fudge's term) for creating a multispecies knowledge of the past? Can research on animals’ perception of change help us to develop nonhistorical approaches to the past? Can we imagine accounts of the past based on multispecies co-authorship?