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Knowledge and pleasure at Regent's Park: the gardens of the Zoological Society of London during the nineteenth century
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Historical Studies.
2001 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The subject of this dissertation is the Zoological Gardens of the Zoological Society of London (f. 1826) in the nineteenth century. Located in Regent s Park, it was the express purpose of the Gardens (f. 1828) to function as a testing-ground for acclimatisation and to demonstrate the scientific impor­tance of various animal species.

The aim is to analyse what the Gardens signified as a recreational, educational and scientific institution in nineteenth-century London by considering them from four different perspectives: as a pan of a newly-founded society, as a part of the leisure culture of mid-Victorian London, as a medi­ator of popular zoology and as a constituent of the Zoological Society's scientific ambitions.

After an introduction which describes the devlopment of European zoos, Chapter two recapitu­lates the early years of the Society and the Gardens. The original aims of the Society—science and acclimatisation located in a museum and zoological garden—as stated in various prospectuses, are examined. The implications of acclimatisation, it being a problematic practice, are outlined and the connections between acclimatisation, the Society, the Gardens and the British Empire are also briefly considered. The founding of the Gardens is extensively described as well as how the animals were obtained and how exhibits were arranged.

Chapter three is based primarily on the popular response to the Gardens in the 1850s when, after a period of decline, the institution once again became a common London visiting-place. The most important questions of this chapter concern the public and how it reacted to the Gardens of this period. The financial problems preceding the five years between 1850 and 1855 ^ described as well as how the Society managed to regain its popularity. This process was closely linked to the decision in 1847to let non-members of the Society enter the Gardens, and the implications of this resolution are discussed. As a background to the Gardens' popularity, two other London recreations are also described: the Colosseum Panorama and the Surrey Zoological Garden. The Surrey Zoological Gar­den especially is interesting, as it was a rival of the Society's Gardens, and the different attractions of these establishments are considered.

Chapter four focuses on the official and non-official guidebooks to the Gardens and the implica­tions of these as mediators of popular zoology. The historical and cultural connection between the guidebooks and travel handbooks is oudined and also how the genre as a whole is constructed. The progress and development of the Society's guidebooks during the nineteenth century is described and the differences between these guidebooks and the non-official ones are examined. Finally, with the aid of Victorian children's books, I argue that the guidebooks can literally be considered as travel handbooks since a visit to the Gardens may be regarded as a journey of knowledge.

Chapter five is an in-depth study of the zoological science of the Gardens. The scientific work of the Society is briefly described, starting with the Committee of Science and Correspondence, and the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London. The Proceedings reports that base their findings on animals in the Gardens are then described together with minor detours into the history of taxonomy and morphology.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2001. , 254 p.
Idéhistoriska skrifter, ISSN 0282-7646 ; 36
Keyword [en]
Zoological Gardens, Zoological Society of London, zoo, London, nineteenth century, acclimatisation, imperialism, leisure, public, guidebook, zoology, natural history, popular science
National Category
History of Ideas
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-59811ISBN: 91-7305-147-0OAI: diva2:556813
Public defence
2001-12-04, Humanisthuset, hörsal F, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 10:15
Available from: 2012-09-26 Created: 2012-09-26 Last updated: 2013-02-25Bibliographically approved

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