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The Wild Within

Histories of a Landmark British Zoo
Andrew Flack

BUY Cloth · 272 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813940939 · $39.50 · Feb 2018
BUY Ebook · 272 pp. · ISBN 9780813940953 · $39.50 · Feb 2018

Established in 1836, the Bristol Zoo is the world’s oldest surviving zoo outside of a capital city and has frequently been at the vanguard of zoo innovation. In The Wild Within, Andrew Flack uses the experiences of the Bristol Zoo to explore the complex and ever-changing relationship between human and beast, which in many cases has altered radically over time.

Flack recounts a history in which categories and identities combined, converged, and came into conflict, as the animals at Bristol proved to be extremely adaptive. He also reveals aspects of the human-animal bond, however, that have remained remarkably consistent not only throughout the zoo’s existence but for centuries, including the ways in which even the captive animals with the most distinct qualities and characteristics are misunderstood when viewed through an anthropocentric lens.

Flack strips back the layers of the human-animal relationship from those rooted in objectification and homogenization to those rooted in the recognition of consciousness and individual experience. The multifaceted beasts and protean people in The Wild Within challenge a host of assumptions--both within and outside the zoo--about what it means to be human or animal in the modern world.


"Within the vibrant field of human-animal studies there is considerable interest in the changing nature of zoos, and, in my opinion, this book offers a significant contribution to that interest. Flack offers a comprehensive engagement with important issues relating to the keeping of animals in zoo conditions; the physical, social, and cultural nature of those conditions; and how such animal keeping can be related to wider concerns about changing environments."

Garry Marvin, University of Roehampton, co-author of Zoo Culture

The Wild Within offers an innovatively thematic account of the history of one of Britain's most durable zoos. Engagingly written, full of fascinating detail, and informed by political insight, it chronicles the evolving relations among the zoo's inhabitants, its staff, its visitors, and the cultural contexts that they shared.

Harriet Ritvo, MIT, author of Noble Cows and Hybrid Zebras: Essays on Animals and History

Where are the wild things? What are they? Andrew Flack takes us on an engaging and erudite safari through multiple enclosures of human-animal encounter. Focused on the Bristol Zoo, this story is one of science, spectacle, negotiation, and transformation--a compelling example of the value not only of incorporating the nonhuman into our historical narratives but of allowing them the possibility of 'looking back' at us.

Karen Jones, University of Kent, author of Epiphany in the Wilderness: Hunting, Nature, and Performance in the Nineteenth-Century American West

The Bristol Zoo, the world’s oldest surviving zoo outside a capital city and the fifth-oldest zoo in the world, was founded in 1835 by the Bristol, Clifton and West of England Zoological Society. In this volume, Flack (Univ. of Bristol) traces the history of the Bristol Zoo from its origins to today.... The book will appeal to social historians and naturalists concerned about the relevance of zoos today. Summing Up: Recommended.


Andrew Flack makes a strong entrance into the field of animal history with The Wild Within:Histories of a Landmark British Zoo. The monograph takes Bristol Zoo as its case study,charting its history since its inception in the 1830s to the beginning of the twenty-firstcentury. Aiming far beyond a simple history of the site, The Wild Within examines andhistoricizes the relationships between humans and animals, or as the author calls his subjects,human and non-human animals.

European Review of History

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