Victorian Vices: Cruelty to Animals – A ‘Crime against Civilisation’?

Ref: C2346531

The Victorians relied on animals to an extent that is perhaps difficult to grasp in the 21st century, for transport, in warfare, and for sport and entertainment. It is not surprising, therefore, that cruelty towards them them came to be counted among society’s vices - even as a 'crime against civilisation'. This lecture will first consider debates about what actually constituted ‘cruelty’ to animals. These were informed by philosophical, religious and medical arguments that offer wider insights into the Victorian mindset - among them the question of whether animals had souls, or were capable of feeling pain. It will also analyse some 19th century campaigns against cruelty, including the formation of the (R)SPCA and its royal patronage; the legal regulation of the treatment of animals; and later 19th century debates about vivisection and medical research, and the wearing of furs and feathers.

Course aim

To explain how the Victorians defined 'cruelty' to animals, consider some 19th century campaigns to prevent it, and assess how successful they were.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is for beginners and improvers

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Give examples of behaviour towards animals that the Victorians considered to be 'cruel'.
  • Explain why most efforts to protect or rescue animals from cruelty were made by voluntary or charitable bodies rather than central or local government.
  • Assess the arguments for and against vivisection in the later 19th century.
  • Know where to access additional sources for further independent study.

How will I be taught?

What kind of feedback can I expect?

What else do I need to know?

There is nothing you need to know or bring to the lecture.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

What can I do next?

View full course information sheet

Victorian Vices: Cruelty to Animals – A ‘Crime against Civilisation’?

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  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2021
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