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Response to Review of What it Means to be Human: Reflections from 1791 to the Present

It is notoriously more difficult to re­spond to favourable reviews than it is to negative (‘unfair’ and ‘superficial’) ones, but Rob Boddice’s analysis of my book may provide an opportunity to reflect on the future of histories of sentient life, whether of human or non-human animals. Historical research in this field is growing both quantitatively and qualitatively. Boddice’s own book on the history of animals in Britain is a preeminent example of innovative scholarship, but there is also a range of exciting work emanating from research funded by the Wellcome Trust (which supports historically-informed research on animal, as well as human, health). Unlike colleagues working in many other areas of history, historians working on the animal/human divide are forced to be interdisciplinary: at the very least, we cannot ignore the politically as well as intellectually influential scholarship being conducted from the perspectives of philosophy, sociology, biology, anthropology, literary studies, and ecology. The challenge is how to grapple with these disciplines while remaining historically rigorous, passionate about archival research, and focussed on change-over-time. It is a challenge that makes this area of historical exploration particularly exhilarating.