Book cover image for: Traces of the Animal Past

Traces of the Animal Past: Methodological Challenges in Animal History

Edited by Jennifer Bonnell and Sean Kheraj

$74.99 HC / $42.99 PB (S)

284 pages, 65 illustrations

6 x 9 inches

978-1-77385-384-0 (Paperback)

978-1-77385-383-3 (Hardback)

978-1-77385-386-4 (Institutional PDF)

978-1-77385-387-1 (ePub)

October 2022

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About the Book

Leading scholars in animal history confront key questions of how we can know and understand the more-than-human past, showcasing the innovative methods historians use to discover and explain how animals fit into our collective histories.

Understanding the relationships between humans and animals is essential to a full understanding of both our present and our shared past. Across the humanities and social sciences, researchers have embraced the ‘animal turn,’ a multispecies approach to scholarship, with historians at the forefront of new research in human-animal studies that blends traditional research methods with interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks that decenter humans in historical narratives. These exciting approaches come with core methodological challenges for scholars seeking to better understand the past from non-anthropocentric perspectives.

Whether in a large public archive, a small private collection, or the oral histories of living memories, stories of animals are mediated by the humans who have inscribed the records and organized archival collections. In oral histories, the place of animals in the past are further refracted by the frailty of human memory and recollection. Only traces remain for researchers to read and interpret.

Bringing together seventeen original essays by a leading group of international scholars, Traces of the Animal Past showcases the innovative methods historians use to unearth and explain how animals fit into our collective histories. Situating the historian within the narrative, bringing transparency to methodological processes, and reflecting on the processes and procedures of current research, this book presents new approaches and new directions for a maturing field of historical inquiry.

With Contributions By: Jennifer Bonnell, Colleen Campbell, Jason Colby, George Colpitts, J. Keri Cronin, Joanna Dean, Jody Hodgins, Dolly Jørgensen, Sean Kheraj, Tina Loo, Lindsay Stallones Marshall, Catherine McNeur, Susan Nance, Harriet Ritvo, Andrew Robichaud, Nigel Rothfels, Sandra Swart, Emily Wakild, and Jay Young

About the Editors

Jennifer Bonnell is an associate professor of History at York University and the author of Reclaiming the Don: An Environmental History of Toronto’s Don River Valley, which won the Canadian Historical Association’s Clio prize and Heritage Toronto’s best book award. Her new book project explores the relationships between beekeeping, agricultural modernization, and environmental change in the Great Lakes Region. For more on her work, visit

Sean Kheraj is an associate professor of Canadian and environmental history at York University. He is the author of Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History. He is also the director of the Network in Canadian History and Environment and producer of Nature’s Past: Canadian Environmental History Podcast.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Traces of the Animal Past
Jennifer Bonnell and Sean Kheraj

Part I: Animal-Centered Approaches

Chapter 1: Kicking Over the Traces? Freeing the Animal from the Archive
Sandra Swart

Chapter 2: Occupational Hazards: Honey Bee Labour as an Interpretive Device in Animal History
Jennifer Bonnell

Chapter 3: Hearing History Through Hoofbeats: Exploring Equine Volition and Voice in the Archive
Lindsay Stallones Marshall

Part II: Finding the Animal

Chapter 4: Hidden in Plain Sight: How Art and Visual Culture Can Help Us Think About Animal Histories
J. Keri Cronin

Chapter 5: Accessing Animal Health Knowledge: Popular Educators and Veterinary Science in Rural Ontario
Jody Hodgins

Chapter 6: The Animal Anti-Cruelty Movement and the Hudson’s Bay Company, 1919-1939
George Colpitts

Chapter 7: Guinea Pig Agnotology
Joanna Dean

Part III: Traces

Chapter 8: Vanishing Flies and the Lady Entomologist
Catherine McNeur

Chapter 9: Who is a Greyhound? Reflections on the Non-human Digital Archive
Susan Nance

Chapter 10: Tuffy’s Cold War: Science, Dolphins, and the US Navy
Jason Colby

Chapter 11: The Elephant in the Archive
Nigel Rothfels

Part IV: Spatial Sources and Animal Movement

Chapter 12: Spatial Analysis and Digital Urban Animal History
Sean Kheraj

Chapter 13: Making Tracks: A Grizzly and Entangled History
Colleen Campbell and Tina Loo

Chapter 14: What’s a Guanaco? Tracing the Llama Diaspora Through and Beyond South America
Emily Wakild

Chapter 15: Visualizing the Animal City: Digital Experiments in Animal History
Andrew Robichaud

Part V: Exhibiting Animal Pasts

Chapter 16: Creatures on Display: Making an Animal Exhibit at the Archives of Ontario
Jay Young

Chapter 17: Portraits of Extinction: Encountering Extinction Narratives in the Natural History Museum
Dolly Jørgensen

Epilogue: Combinations and Conjunction
Harriet Ritvo