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Animal Studies Research Guide

What is animal studies? What search terms should I use to find sources on nonhuman animals within the humanities? How can I study issues of animal exploitation as an undergraduate? This research guide aims to answer these questions for students at Swem.

Manuscripts and Archives in Special Collections

Tracking animals in the archive

Colonial-style Horsehair Peruke Wig worn by previous William & Mary President John Stewart BryanNonhuman animals did not leave diaries or letters behind for historians to piece together life from the animals' perspectives. Therefore, researchers often have to rely on materials produced by humans to access the historical lives of animals.

One way to practice animal-centered historiography is to track animal presence in traditional archival materials, such as the descriptions of animal behavior found in a farmer's diary.

Another way to center animals in their own history is to broaden the scope of archival material: consider animal tracks, dwelling places (such as photographed beaver dams), or human goods made from leather or ivory as windows into the experience of a particular animal or group of animals in a given period. An example from our own library is the horsehair Peruke Wig (shown left), worn by William & Mary President during colonial costumed Yule Log parties in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

For more on animal-centered historiography, see Etienne Benson's essay, "Animal Writes: Historiography, Disciplinarity, and the Animal Trace" [pdf download], in Making Animal Meaning, ed. Linda Kalof and Georgina Montgomery (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2011): 3-16. Linked PDF available on author's website.


Animals represented in material & visual culture collections

Animals represented in personal papers in the 1700s

Animals represented in personal papers in the 1800s

Farm animals

Other animals

Animals represented in personal papers in the 1900s


Farm animals

Other animals