Wednesday 4 April 2018 16.30 - 18.30V-4 - CUL17 : Animals in the Family
6 CP/01/035 6 College Park, School of Sociology
This paper will explore the role of animals in family life, household domestic routines and everyday practices in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It draws on research from the AHRC-funded Project Pets and Family Life in England and Wales, 1837-1939, which examines the relationships between families and their cats, dogs ... (Show more)
This paper will explore the role of animals in family life, household domestic routines and everyday practices in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It draws on research from the AHRC-funded Project Pets and Family Life in England and Wales, 1837-1939, which examines the relationships between families and their cats, dogs and other companion animals in British history between the nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. This paper will reveal the changing place of animals in homes, looking at how pets were positioned within households, family structures and everyday lives.
Domesticity and the family were a fundamental part of social and cultural life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and have received an increasing amount of historical attention (e.g. Davidoff and Hall, 2002; Cohen, 2006; Hamlett, 2010). But few studies have addressed the role of animals in households, or the way in which pets shaped and contributed to understandings of domesticity. During this period family structures shifted as middle-class family size fell in the late nineteenth century, a trend that spread to the working classes in the twentieth century (Davidoff, 2012). While the nuclear family became more dominant, a diverse range of households continued to exist, and indeed the presence of a pet could allow non-nuclear households – those occupied by single people or the childless – to define themselves as families.
The way in which people lived was also transformed in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The decades following the First World War saw wide-ranging changes in the built environment, with new council housing and the mass-building of suburban homes, which, it is argued, produced a new mentality amongst the respectable working classes (Scott, 2014). Alongside larger homes, the paper will explore pets in small terraced houses and lodgings, and consider the impact of new housing types, with increased access to gardens. In middle-class households, servant-keeping reduced and there was a greater reliance on new technologies (Delap, 2011; Giles, 2004). How did animals fit into the daily practices and routines of the home? This paper will address this by looking at a range of domestic practices including washing, cooking, eating and sleeping.
To answer these questions, the paper will draw on a new large-scale archival survey of everyday pet keeping in Britain. This focuses on London and the surrounding area and the North West of England and Wales, to show regional and national difference as well as urban and rural areas. The survey includes personal papers, including diaries, letters and photograph albums, mainly from middle and upper-class families, held in local archives and record offices, but will also include working-class autobiographies and existing oral histories (e.g. Raphael Samuel collection; Elizabeth Roberts collection) as well as court records to build up a full picture of pets in various households identifying differences in class, occupation, region and family type. (Show less)
Claudia Soares : 'The Many Lessons which the Care of Some Gentle, Loveable Animal would give': Animals and Pet keeping in the Waifs and Strays Society, 1881-1914
Research on pet keeping has demonstrated that animals played an increasingly important emotional role in domesticity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Ritvo, 1987). While this panel largely examines the position of pets in relation to the family household, less is known about pet keeping beyond this setting. Drawing on ... (Show more)
Research on pet keeping has demonstrated that animals played an increasingly important emotional role in domesticity in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (Ritvo, 1987). While this panel largely examines the position of pets in relation to the family household, less is known about pet keeping beyond this setting. Drawing on my previous research, this paper looks at the role that animals played in institutions, which is an area of study that has not yet been explored.
The paper uses The Waifs and Strays Society, (a charitable children's institution), as a case study to explore the function of animals and pets in the everyday life the institution. Recent studies have used material culture and social history approaches to expand understandings of domesticity and highlight the importance of home in a range of institutional spaces (Hamlett, 2015). Yet less is known about the social and emotional interactions, exchanges and culture within the institution, and the ways in which those that resided within these spaces shaped individual and collective experience. The examination of pet keeping within the institution provides one approach to exploring 'family life', and the social, emotional and material experiences in the institutional setting.
First, the paper explores the role of imagined animals in the Society's operations and practices. Through the examination of institutional literature, the paper charts how animals and pets, and their relationship to children, featured in the Society's imagination. In particular, the paper will focus on the Society's invention of fictional 'animal characters', and examines the ways in which they were represented to different audiences. In doing so, the paper will explore the specific ideological meanings these animals held, and consider the emotions and compassionate responses they sought to elicit from the Society's supporters. Although imagined, these animal representations can tell us much about the Society's understandings of why and how animals were important to the institution, as well as the shifting understandings and representations of domestic animals in broader culture and society.
Second, by using institutional literature, letters, and photographs, the paper then considers how pets featured in the everyday life of the institution's child inmates. The paper demonstrates how pet keeping in the institution was one of a range of practices that the Society introduced that sought to nurture children and to develop closeness, intimacy and affective feeling in the institutional setting. By exploring these practices across a range of residential homes, the paper offers new insight into children's institutional life and domesticity. Research will further consider the educational value that the Society placed on pet keeping as a means to teach children about domestic ideology, hierarchy, family structure, as well as the affective responses to home life that pet keeping sought to bring about among inmates. By doing so, the paper will contribute to an area of growing research that focuses on human-animal relationships and interactions, and provides an opportunity to begin to build a picture of practices of pet keeping outside the household and family unit and in the institutional setting. (Show less)
Julie-Marie Strange : How much is that Doggy in the Window? Pets, the Market, Emotion and Morality in the Long Nineteenth Century
This paper examines the nexus between economic and emotional value in human-pet relationships in the long nineteenth century. Animals were, as numerous historians from Harriet Ritvo to Sarah Amato have shown, increasingly commodified over the course of the nineteenth century. It is tempting to see the emotional human-pet dynamic in ... (Show more)
This paper examines the nexus between economic and emotional value in human-pet relationships in the long nineteenth century. Animals were, as numerous historians from Harriet Ritvo to Sarah Amato have shown, increasingly commodified over the course of the nineteenth century. It is tempting to see the emotional human-pet dynamic in relation to animals’ increasing market value over the period. Yet this relationship is far from straightforward.
While ‘pedigree’ cats and dogs, for instance, demanded a high market value, ‘mongrels’, ‘tabbies’ or ‘curs’ were often described as ‘useless’ and ‘worthless’. Pedigree cats could command high commercial prices, social commentators such as Henry Mayhew commented in the 1840s and 50s on the high numbers of stray cats in towns and cities. Advice literature told householders how to drown unwanted kittens. Many of the RSPCA’s (founded 1824) prosecutions for cruelty against cats during the century involved killing cats in such a way as to cause suffering and distress to the animal, notably, not that killing ‘surplus’ cats was problematic. Cats were often obtained in casual exchanges or, in fact, strays that individuals fed regularly, acquiring a semi-domestic status.
As Philip Howell has demonstrated, dogs were definitely commodified pieces of property. Nevertheless, this commodification did not encompass all dogs. As Howell goes on to note, mongrels and ‘street’ dogs - ‘curs’ – represented a public health problem with little economic value. In contrast, breeds such as spaniels, lap or ‘toy’ dogs or Newfoundlands, the core popular pet breeds in the 19th century, tended to be luxury goods in their own right. Market value was heightened by emotional investment too. As the well-known case of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning and her spaniel, Flush, shows, the success of ‘dognapping’ depended on dog owners’ investing emotional over capital value for dogs in the mid nineteenth century (one of the most famous dog ransom cases is Elizabeth Barrett-Browning and her dog ‘Flush’).
Yet what of the emotional ties some human forged with cats and dogs that carried little or no market value? Accounts of pet bereavement suggest that the mongrel or mangy cat could be just as ‘loved’ as the pedigree, an emotional dynamic that disrupts notions of animals as property and their affective worth having a direct correlation with market value.
The growth in a pet market, now worth billions of pounds in Britain, raises questions about the nexus of economic and emotional value; supply and demand; cruelty and welfare. This paper examines those issues from an emotional perspective. It does so by examining human-pet relationships among working people as well as middle-class families. By moving the study of the pet out of the ‘boudoir’ – to paraphrase Kathleen Kete’s work on bourgeois pet keeping in 19th century Paris – and into the back yards and sculleries of British homes alongside examining welfare and cruelty issues affecting animals in villas and salubrious postcodes, this paper considers the murky world of pet keeping, emotion and market economy in nineteenth and early 20th century family life. (Show less)
Ingrid Tague : Pets and the Evolution of the Eighteenth-Century Family
The history of the scholarly study of pets in some ways parallels the history of pet keeping itself: what was seen as trivial or a target of satire (Phineas, 1974) has gradually become more respectable in mainstream (scholarly) society. Much of the interest in pets emerged initially through the social ... (Show more)
The history of the scholarly study of pets in some ways parallels the history of pet keeping itself: what was seen as trivial or a target of satire (Phineas, 1974) has gradually become more respectable in mainstream (scholarly) society. Much of the interest in pets emerged initially through the social sciences, with an understandable emphasis on modern and contemporary society. One result of that focus has been an assumption—tacit or explicit—that pet keeping is a phenomenon of industrial and post-industrial society (e.g., Franklin, 1999; Ritvo, 1987, 1988). Yet there is clear evidence that pet keeping has both a long history and a reach far beyond western industrialized societies (Walker-Meikle, 2012; Serpell, 1988). An unintended consequence of the claim that pet keeping is a universal human practice, however, is that it draws attention away from the specific historical contexts of such practices.
In this paper, I will examine the intersections of pet keeping and family structure in eighteenth-century Britain, when both pet keeping and the family were in flux. There is a rich body of scholarship on the early modern family and the variety of roles humans might play in the family, but animals have largely been neglected in this work. Although pets are often considered in the context of the modern nuclear family—in discussions of pets as “fur babies,” for example—the eighteenth-century conception of the household-family complicates this picture. The household-family included all members of household: parents and children, but also servants, apprentices, companions, and other employees or relatives who might be cohabiting (Tadmor, 1996, 2001). In this context, animals might be seen in any number of roles. It was widely accepted that animals could be considered servants; indeed, the animal-servant metaphor was the most prevalent one. But animals might also be companions, like the single women who often served as entertainment, company, and general helpers to their wealthier relations (Rizzo, 1994). Or they could serve more directly as family members in ways similar to our contemporary conceptions of pets as part of the nuclear family, like children. Debates over pet keeping often revolved around differing conceptions of the proper role of animals within the household-family, as pets seemed to cross the boundary from useful servants to dangerous hangers-on. Pets might simultaneously fill multiple roles in a household, thus challenging social hierarchies that were supposed to be strict and immutable.
Moreover, the idea of the family as extending outward, beyond the household to kin, as well as forward and backward in time through lineage, remained powerful in this period. By imagining elaborate lineages for their pets, some Britons created deliberate parallels between their animal and human societies. In concrete ways, animals could also bolster networks within extended human families, for instance through the exchange of puppies as gifts. Both attitudes toward pets and the actual experiences of pet keeping thus shaped and were shaped by transformations in family structure over the course of the century. (Show less)