Animals and science in the colonial world


working elephants in ceylo

To attend, please register here

Convened by Marion Thomas (University of Strasbourg and Maison Française d’Oxford)

This seminar aims to deepen our understanding of the significant roles played by certain animals in the emergence and development of the French and the British empires. It explores the economic, social, political and moral factors governing the uses of animals in the colonies, and the ways in which animals were intertwined with questions of race, gender and colonialism. Finally, it considers the possibility of a more animal-centred history of colonial science that relies on the traces left by animals in historical records, and thereby aims at shedding a different light on the historiography of empires.




2:00 p.m. Welcome. Pascal Marty, Director of the Maison Française d’Oxford & Marion Thomas

2:15 p.m. - 3:45 p.m. Colonial animals to illuminate the Anthropocene
Chair: Professor Sandra Swart (University of Stellenbosh)

• Professor William Beinart (University of Oxford), The Adamsons and their relationship with lions in late-colonial Kenya

• Dr. Nayanika Mathur (University of Oxford), Crooked cats: beastly tales from India

• Professor Saheed Aderinto (University of Western Carolina) Colonial animals and imperial subjecthood in Nigeria

3:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Break 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Filming, collecting, and experimenting on colonial animals
Chair: Professor Gregory Radick (University of Leeds)

Keith Dunmall (University of Kent), All skin and bones: what gorillas taught humans about individuality in the early twentieth century

• Dr. Jonathan Saha (University of Durham), Accumulations and cascades in the animal history of colonial Myanmar

• Dr. Marion Thomas (University of Strasbourg and Maison française d’Oxford), From French Guinea to Florida: chimpanzees as multi-purpose objects of research (1925-1940)


5:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m. Closing remarks.



Picture: Working elephants in Ceylon (New York Public Library)