Menagerie: The History of Exotic Animals in England


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Menagerie: The History of Exotic Animals in England Author: Format: Hardback First Published: Published By: Oxford University Press Pages: 368 Illustrations and other contents: 27 b&w halftones; 8pp colour plates Language: English ISBN: 9780198714705 Categories: , ,

Menagerie is the story of the panoply of exotic animals that were brought into Britain from time immemorial until the foundation of the London Zoo – a tale replete with the extravagant, the eccentric, and – on occasion – the downright bizarre. From Henry III’s elephant at the Tower, to George IV’s love affair with Britain’s first giraffe and Lady Castlereagh’s recalcitrant ostriches, Caroline Grigson’s tour through the centuries amounts to an impressively detailed history of exotic animals in Britain. On the way we encounter a host of fascinating and outlandish creatures, including the first peacocks and popinjays, Thomas More’s monkey, James I’s cassowaries in St James’s Park, and Lord Clive’s zebra – which refused to mate with a donkey, until the donkey was painted with stripes. But this is not just the story of the animals themselves. It also the story of all those who came into contact with them: the people who owned them, the merchants who bought and sold them, the seamen who carried them to our shores, the naturalists who wrote about them, the artists who painted them, the itinerant showmen who worked with them, the collectors who collected them. And last but not least, it is about all those who simply came to see and wonder at them, from kings, queens, and nobles to ordinary men, women, and children, often impelled by no more than simple curiosity and a craving for novelty.

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Grigsons abundance of evidence creates a useful resource for historians of both science and art, and everything in between. * Katherine McAlpine, British Journal for the History of Science * What sets this volume apart is that the author, Caroline Grigson, is not only a fine historian but also a zoologist who knows her possum from her pademelon. As you would expect from a book from Oxford University Press, this is no superficial treatmeny of a complex subject, but an exhaustively researched treatise with extensive quotes from original letters and papers written at the time. * Russell Tofts, Chairman of The Bartlett Society * With lively prose and thoroughly researched anecdotes, it becomes clear that [Grigson] shares a soft spot for the truly extravagant, eccentric and purely bizarre people involved in the world of menagerie. * Bath Chronicle * Grigson [throws] many sidelights on our compulsion to own and associate with animals ... There is much in [this spellbinding book] to suggest that alongside fascination, benevolence and affection lies much ignorance, indifference and active cruelty. * Patrick Scrivenor, Literary Review * ... [an] incisive chronicle of exotic visitations to England's shores. * Nature * [A] fascinating, well-researched and delightful book. * Lawrence James, The Times * Grigson provides a supremely detailed account of England's exotic animals. Her zoological expertise enables her to identity more obscure species exhibited by showmen, while her archival work allows her to untangle their complex journeys to and within the British Isles ... an entertaining and informative read. * Helen Cowie, BBC History magazine * Grigson is terrific at sleuthing down the remains of famous beasts. She also opens a few small windows onto national character ... [and] unearths some surprising historical gems. Who knew that the novelist Daniel Defoe went bankrupt trying to breed civet cats? Or that British hunts were once so desperate for foxes that they had to import them? Although private citizens would continue to keep menageries, this book ends with the demise of the collection at the Tower of London and the foundation of the London Zoo. It all makes the modern reader feel incredibly grateful that today we can enjoy exotic wildlife on our television screens, with the objects of our fascination in their natural habitats and no viewers gored. * Helen Brown, The Daily Telegraph * In Menagerie, the zoologist Caroline Grigson presents an impressive study of the country's ... obsession with exotic animals ... Menagerie is full of fascinating and often charming tales ... As a study of a trend that stems back almost 1,000 years ... it is undeniably and ambitiously comprehensive. * Guy Pewsey, The Independent * Combining a zoologist's knowhow with an historian's tenacity for detail, Caroline Grigson has scoured archives to produce a comprehensive study of animal collections in England from earliest times until the founding of London Zoo in 1828. From archaeological finds to illuminated bibles, auction catalogues to court cases and even a 1705 gravestone commemorating the first woman killed by a tiger it is a story replete with as much comedy as tragedy, peopled by naturalists, aristocrats and showmen who were often as strange as the animals they collected ... Filled with lively anecdote and scholarly commentary, Grigsons book is a delightful guide to our long national obsession with wildlife. * Wendy Moore, The Guardian * Menagerie is a fact-driven narrative with exemplary commitment to detail. * Mary Wellesley, London Review of Books * A hugely enjoyable read and makes a valuable contribution that will only serve to enrich what is fast becoming a fascinating field of research * Eleanor Larsson, Archives of Natural History *

Author Biography

A zoologist, formerly a curator in the Museums of the Royal College of Surgeons, Caroline Grigson is now an honorary professor at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. The subjects of her numerous publications range from prehistoric animal husbandry to the study of natural history and its relationship to art in eighteenth century London.