Encountering snakes in early Victorian London: the first reptile house at the Zoological Gardens
Hall, James R.
History of Science
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Hall, J. R. (2015). Encountering snakes in early Victorian London: the first reptile house at the Zoological Gardens. History of Science, 53 (3), 338-361. https://doi.org/10.1177/0073275315580958
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from SAGE via http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0073275315580958
This paper examines the first reptile house (opened in 1849) at the Zoological Gardens in London as a novel site for the production and consumption of knowledge about snakes, stressing the significance of architectural and material limitations on both snakes and humans. Snakes were both familiar and ambiguous, present at every level of British society through the reading of Scripture, and as recurrent characters in imperial print culture. For all that snakes engendered feelings of disgust as the most distinctive representatives of a lowly class of animals, they exerted an equivalent fascination over diverse publics spanning the social spectrum. Building on work showing a consideration for the multi-sensory nature of visits to menageries, this paper considers animal display and spectacle beyond the visual. It explores the emotional economy of encountering snakes in person and the bodily phenomena this engendered. Vicarious visits were offered up to readers of periodicals and newspapers, and the reptile house was harnessed as a controversial pedagogical resource for teaching moral, as well as scientific, lessons.
animals, display, emotions, imperialism, natural history, reptile house, spectacle, zoo
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0073275315580958
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/248014