Cover image for Zoo : a history of zoological gardens in the West
Zoo : a history of zoological gardens in the West
Baratay, Éric.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Reaktion, 2002.
Physical Description:
400 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QL76 .B3713 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Wild animals have fascinated human observers since time immemorial. The story of our interest in collecting, classifying and dominating Nature looms large; thus it is surprising that the history of menageries, zoological gardens and zoos as we know them today has been so poorly documented. This gap is addressed by Zoo .

In the Renaissance, wealthy aristocrats showcased exotic beasts in private menageries. Safely caged, animals inspired the interest of naturalists and fed the curiosity of the masses. By the 19th century, increased urbanization and colonization aided the expansion of zoos in which animals were tamed to serve as domesticated livestock. Nowadays, with many natural habitats under threat of extinction, the social function of zoos is less clear. Such institutions both present the illusion of wild animals in a natural state to a nostalgic public and find themselves justifying their existence as saviors of endangered species.

Author Notes

Elisabeth Hardouin-Fugier is Professor of Art History at the Universite Jean-Moulin, Lyon.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

While the publisher has billed this book as "the firstto document the changing nature of zoos in Europe and North America and to access the factors contributing to these changes," it has been preceded by several other similar works: Jake Page's Zoo: The Modern Ark, Vicki Croke's The Modern Ark: A Story of Zoos Past, Present and Future, and the four-volume Encyclopedia of the World's Zoos. So, why would anyone be interested in this new volume? The answer lies in the scope and depth of scholarly research and presentation and in the 400 illustrations (150 of which are in color) that aren't likely to be found elsewhere. While other books look at the architecture of zoos and the care of animals in captivity, the authors, who are French professors of history and art history, respectively, take a social history focus, examining how people view wild animals and how that has changed over time. Their book has five main sections, with the first three forming the core of the text "The Passion for Collecting (1500s to 1700s)," "The Need for Control (1800s)," and "The Yearning for Nature (1900s)." The final two sections "Zoos Through the Ages," and "Artists and the Zoo" consist entirely of illustrations. One can read the text or spend hours simply enjoying the images. Libraries that have other titles on zoos will still want to purchase this. Highly recommended. Edell M. Schaefer, Brookfield P.L., WI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Baratay and Hardouin-Fugier's book contains a great many pictures, about a third in color, including historic photos, modern artistic photos, and reproductions of paintings, all adding visual experience to the exposition of the theme--the changing role of zoos throughout the past few centuries. There are 25 pages of notes, including three graphs. Most of the emphasis is on European zoos, with a fair amount about a few US zoos, and a little about Canadian ones. The authors maintain that, with only a few exceptions, zoos have contributed little to scientific knowledge, are not likely to preserve many endangered species, and have not treated animals well. This is not a book of antizoo propaganda; but the facts speak for themselves. The authors show that Westerners have not really wanted, at least until quite recently, and maybe even not yet, to have scientific knowledge advanced, or species preserved, or for animals to have long, healthy, and natural lives--not if the expenses are great. Westerners want to be entertained and see themselves in control of the natural world. Zoos have entertained and provided illusions about our role. Libraries serving future zoo managers or historians of animal care must have this book. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals. M. LaBar Southern Wesleyan University

Table of Contents

Introduction: the Call of the Wildp. 7
1 The Passion for Collecting (1500s to 1700s)p. 15
1 Ancient Trophiesp. 17
2 The Aristocracy's New-found Curiosityp. 29
3 Baroque Scenographyp. 43
4 Popular Pleasuresp. 55
2 The Need for Control (1800s)p. 71
5 The Elite and the Invention of the Zoop. 73
6 Imperial Gloryp. 113
7 The Exploitation of Naturep. 131
8 The Thrill of the Wildp. 147
3 The Yearning for Nature (1900s)p. 199
9 A Public Questp. 201
10 The Illusion of Libertyp. 237
11 The Imitation of Naturep. 265
Epiloguep. 281
4 Zoos Through the Agesp. 283
5 Artists and the Zoop. 339
Referencesp. 371
Photographic Acknowledgementsp. 397
Indexp. 398