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Social Relations between Humans and Other Animals in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Britain

Social Relations between Humans and Other Animals in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Britain

This project is conceived as a contribution to the 'animal turn' in Geography: that is, a reconsideration of the intertwined geographies of humans and animal relations. This is not just a matter of examining the development of attitudes to the natural world, though this is an important element of this area of study; nor is it just a matter of tracing the development of the material significance of animals to human beings, though again this is necessary and unavoidable. Rather, at least in this project, the 'animal turn' is of significance because by analysing these geographies of human-animal relations, the social relations between human beings themselves can be illuminated, particularly with relation to the nature of the modern social order.


This project concerns a particular aspect of human-animal relations: the development of practices of pet keeping in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the accompanying removal of 'stray' animals from urban public space. The notion of the 'pet' is a complicated one, and of course is not a modern innovation; yet the nineteenth century saw a new focus in the spread of pet keeping within the European middle classes. Pet keeping becomes a paradigmatic urban practice, inseparable from the rise of the urban bourgeoisie and emblematic of their values. It can be contrasted, for instance, to the relations that the working classes have with their animal companions. And, along with these class relations, pet keeping becomes particularly associated with middle-class women: the pet is a gendered as well as a classed object. It is particularly related to the nature of the bourgeois household and home as it develops in material form and in discursive significance. There is, then, in the form of pets a nineteenth-century 'domestication' of animals.

Marginal as pet keeping might seem to the great narratives of social and political development in the modern era, its history and geography can be used to analyse the nature of the modern city and modern society. This project asserts the significance of these affective and material relations, and explores their significance and their ramifications into the twentieth century and down to our own day.


  • P. Howell, 2018, 'Between wild and domestic, animal and human, life and death: the problem of the stray in the Victorian city', in Clemens Wischermann, Aline Steinbrecher and Philip Howell (Eds), Animal history in the Modern City: Exploring Liminality (London: Bloomsbury), pp.145-160.
  • P. Howell, 2018, 'When did pets become animals?', in Sharon Wilcox and Stephanie Rutherford (Eds), Historical Animal Geographies (Abingdon: Routledge), pp.11-22.
  • P. Howell and H. Kean, 2018, 'The dogs that didn't bark in the Blitz: transpersonal and transpecies emotional geographies on the British home front', Journal of Historical Geography 61, pp.44-52.
  • P. Howell, 2017, 'Pets', in Julie Urbanik and Connie L. Johnston (Eds) Humans and Animals: A Geography of Coexistence (Santa Barbara CA: ABC-CLIO), 268-71
  • P. Howell, 2015, At Home and Astray: The Domestic Dog in Victorian Britain (Charlottesville VA: University of Virginia Press).
  • P. Howell, 2013, 'The dog fancy at war: breeds, breeding, and Britishness, 1914-1918,' Society and Animals 21(6), pp. 546-657.
  • P. Howell, 2012, 'Between the muzzle and the leash: dog-walking, discipline, and the modern city,' in Peter Atkins (Ed), Animal Cities: Beastly Urban Histories (London, Ashgate), pp. 221-241.
  • P. Howell, 2002, 'A place for the animal dead: pets, pet cemeteries and animal ethics in late Victorian Britain,' Ethics, Place and Environment [currently known as Ethics, Policy and Environment] 5(1) 2002, pp. 5-22.
  • P. Howell, 2000, 'Flush and the banditti: dogstealing in Victorian London,' in C. Philo and C. Wilbert (Eds) Animal Spaces, Beastly Places: New Geographies of Animal-Human Relations, pp. 35-55 (London, Routledge).