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Animals and Humans on the London Home Front 1939 -45: exploring diaries and letters

2014 April 20
cat and humans

feline and human animals sheltering together

The Raphael Samuel history centre is running a series of events on the theme of ‘London and War’ during May. I have been invited to speak on animals and humans on the London Home Front with a focus on exploring diaries and letters. This will take place on Wednesday 28 May from 6 to 7.30 in Birkbeck’s Keynes Library at 46 Gordon Square.

Although the Home Front continues to fascinate Londoners today, relatively little is known about the lives of domestic non-human animals at this time, even though much material exists.‘Protagonists’  I consider will include Bob and Muff,  two very different cats, Gyp a Bethnal Green dog, and horses Mariana and Trump who frequented Hyde Park.

I will be analysing the work of their human diarists / biographers  acknowledging the framework described by Walter Benjamin as follows: ‘A chronicler who recites events without distinguishing between major and minor ones acts in accordance with the following truth: nothing that had ever happened should be regarded as lost for history’. To date much of the lives of animals has been ‘lost for history’ even though material exists. I hope to show that ignoring animal lives not only devalues animal experience but also detracts from our understanding of the way in which humans lived in London during the Second World War.

Further details are on the Raphael Samuel History Centre website.The talk is free but you must book by emailing Dr Katy Pettit who administers the centre:

Please note that it is at Birkbeck but at their Keynes library which is at 46 Gordon Square (near Euston tube)

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