Scandia utblick: Historians, Dogs and Other Animals


  • Erika Sandström


human-animal studies (HAS), agency, canines, ethology, emotions


The field of studies most commonly referred to as human-animal studies (HAS) has grown since the mid-1980s. Relations between humans and animals represent a focus of interest in many academic disciplines, also in history. Since historians mainly work with written documents and images of the past, access to animals is only given through human-made materials. This fact and the firm academic tradition in the subject mean that the ways in which historians approach HAS look a bit different from what we see in other disciplines. One problem all researchers have in common, however, is how to understand the concept of agency in animals. Most historians address this issue by looking upon agency as the ability to make a difference, to be an agent of change regardless of whether or not it is intentional. This article explores how historians handle this concept and how they approach trying to explain the behavior of past animals. As a further example of how relations between humans and animals are studied, it also presents an overview of the human-canine relationship from its very beginnings up until today.