Select Page

Jenna The MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: History of Emotions, Urban History, Animal History, Sensory History

Cohort/Start PhD: 2022-2023

Faithful friends and filthy foes. A sensory and emotional history of human-animal interactions in Amsterdam (1840-1930)

Radboud University
Supervisor(s): Prof. dr. Jan Hein Furnée, Dr. Anneleen Arnout
Start date: 1-9-2022

In the context of climate change, decreasing biodiversity, bio-industry and pandemics, the question how humans do, and should, coexist and interact with animals – from cute pets and loyal beasts of burden to future meat and dangerous pests – is becoming ever more pressing today. How did we get here in the first place? Historians have recently argued that it was in the nineteenth-century city that the interaction between humans and animals changed most dramatically. However, in explaining how and why this happened, the sensorial and emotional dimension of these shifting interactions has been strikingly overlooked.

Focusing on Amsterdam as a case study, this project aims to understand how and why the sensory and emotional dimensions of human-animal relationships substantially changed in the modernising urban context between 1840 and 1930. Using letters to the editor and a rich selection of other primary sources, this project will firstly chart and explain how various categories of animals – useful, entertaining, domestic, dying and dangerous – evoked a new, wide range of sensory and emotional responses among various groups of urban dwellers. Taking into account the agency of animals, the project secondly aims to understand how various sorts of animals experienced the shifting relationships with humans and other animals in an urban context. Thirdly, the project will demonstrate how both humans and animals developed new sensory and emotional competences to deal with these shifting interactions and experiences, thereby building towards a deeper understanding of the challenges of human-animal relationships today.