Harvard University Press (HUP), celebrating its centennial year, recently selected MIT historian Harriet Ritvo’s book, "The Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age," as one of its 100 most significant publications.
“Some of these works were instant classics, while others have seen their stature and influence grow over decades,” says Susan Wallace Boehmer, editor-in-chief of Harvard University Press. “Whether through immediate impact or lasting contribution, each of these titles has been significant, both for the Press and for the wider debates and conversations they have started or joined.”
In "The Animal Estate" (1987), Ritvo explores Victorian understandings of animals in a variety of contexts, from livestock breeding to the imperial hunt. She explains how their representation and their treatment also reflected attitudes and tensions within British society.
Delighted to discover her work was included in the HUP commemoration, Ritvo, the Arthur J. Conner Professor of History, explains that, “'The Animal Estate' was one of the first books in which animals were treated as serious historical subjects. Since its publication, scholarly interest in animals has burgeoned in disciplines across the humanities and social sciences."
A new genre of historical literature
“'The Animal Estate' became a foundational text for the new field of animal studies and remains one of the most significant — and sophisticated — histories of how animals have served as metaphors for all kinds of human assumptions and aspirations,” says Janet Browne, department head and Aramont Professor of the History of Science at Harvard University.
“Few authors have so thoughtfully brought the world of animals into the canon of historical literature. I read it when it was first published and loved it! It is a joy to see a new generation of readers encounter it for the first time.”
Story prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
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