You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good. Joan Crawford is dead. Good

November 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

If you were born in rural England in 1837 and never travelled more than a few miles from your home, you would have been surprisingly likely to see a hippopotamus before you died.

The reign of Queen Victoria saw a surge in the construction of all manner of places where exotic animals could be viewed.

And as well as formal, educational settings – private and public zoos, natural history museums – the period brought animals for entertainment to the masses. Travelling menageries would tour towns and cities, featuring performers and their animals.

Or, if you were sufficiently interested (and wealthy), you could simply buy your own tiger or boa constrictor in a shop.

Most exotic pet shops were in London – by 1895 there were 118 wild animal dealers in London alone – but there were also shops in Liverpool, Bath and Bristol.

People could walk into a shop and purchase anything, from an elephant to a bear to a kangaroo.

And the greater politics of the British Empire drove this burgeoning industry into the rest of Europe.

Before the Suez Canal was built, for example, almost every ship coming from Asia or Africa touched land first in England. After it was built, Germany steadily overtook the UK in “the scramble for elephants”.  read more

ART: Michaël Borremans

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