This article is both a work of historical reconstruction and a theoretical intervention. It looks at some influential contemporary accounts of human-animal relations and outlines a body of ideas from the 17th century that challenges what is presented as representative of the past in posthumanist thinking. Indeed, this article argues that this alternative past is much more in keeping with the shifts that posthumanist ideas mark in their departure from humanism. Taking a journey through ways of thinking that will, perhaps, be unfamiliar, the revised vision of human-animal relations outlined here emerges not from a history of philosophy but from an archival study of people’s relationships with and understandings of their livestock in early modern England. At stake are conceptions of who we are and who we might have been, and the relation between those two, and the livestock on 17th-century smallholdings are our guides.
- english literature