Mobilizing the Natural History Tradition: The Intelligent Dog and the Affectionate Spider

  • Chien-hui Li
Part of the The Palgrave Macmillan Animal Ethics Series book series (PMAES)


This chapter examines the animal defense movement’s participation in, and appropriation of, the popular natural history tradition that increasingly attracted the Victorian public’s attention from around the 1840s onward. Regarding the movement as an active agent with its own objectives to promote and the popular natural history tradition as a rich repertoire of ideas upon which it could draw, I argue that this tradition, with its underpinning of natural theology and its moral and didactic functions, not only presented the movement with abundant epistemic resources for enhancing people’s understanding and treatment of animals, but also offered it crucial ideological and moral resources through which to strengthen and disseminate the mainstream movement’s underlying ideologies and ethical outlook. I show how the movement, by undertaking a series of roles, as the promoter, educator, reviewer, publisher, and popularizer of natural history, selectively drew on animal studies to promote its educational and propagandistic work. Ultimately, the movement helped to sustain a distinctively ethical and humane form of natural history that was conducive to its overall objectives, and survived into the later nineteenth century.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chien-hui Li
    • 1
  1. 1.National Cheng Kung UniversityTainanTaiwan

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