A number of years ago I wrote about the need for a history of animals that
would allow us to comprehend more fully how far we humans were ‘‘embed-
ded within and reliant upon the natural order.’’∞
Since that essay was pub-
lished, the field of the history of animals has grown exponentially. No longer
regarded as marginal or perceived as eccentric or even semiserious, the his-
tory of animals has, in the past ten years, gained a status far beyond what
might have been imagined back in 2002. As this volume’s title proclaims,
there has been a ‘‘centering’’ of animals in history during this decade, and
the essays brought together here add to that movement.
Historical work on animals is invaluable for numerous reasons, as Center-
ing Animals in Latin American History makes clear. It is leading us to new in-
sights about human-animal relations, and thus, in this collection alone, we
encounter the significance of colonial practices; indigenous beliefs; scien-
tific and medical ideas; conceptions of blasphemy, pollution, and masculin-
ity; and perceptions and representations of animals in Latin America from
the sixteenth century to the twentieth. But what we also come to see—in
this collection and elsewhere—goes beyond this.
Histories have shown us how far humans and animals were not simply
cohabiting, whether deliberately or accidentally, but how significant animals
were to human culture, to the extent that I now think of human culture as ‘‘so-
called human culture.’’ It is not simply that animals were (and are) used in the
production of vellum, parchment, and glue, all things on which writing and
publishing have relied, which historians have rarely acknowledged fully.≤
is also that animals were present as foci for human attention in ways that
changed human worlds—in films, zoos, and photography, for example, and in
science, pet-keeping, and sport, to name but a few of the topics covered in
monographs published in the past decade.≥
In engaging with such issues, and
in recognizing the role that animals have had in them, historians have ex-
panded our understanding of the places and the periods they research.
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