You are here:


Beasts of the Southern World: multi-species history and the Anthropocene

Charles Darwin jotted in his notebook in 1838, ‘He who understands the baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.’ Essentially, I am trying to answer Darwin’s call. I want to ‘understand’ both powerful primates by exploring the historical relationship between Papio ursinus and Homo sapiens. My book asks what historians can do in the global crises of the Anthropocene and the sixth extinction? One answer is to rethink the presentism of our human-animal relationships and write multi-species ‘useable pasts’ over the longue duree. It reconstructs the historical relationship between the two fellow primates who live closely with each other – baboons and humans. It offers new approaches in ‘more-than-human history’ by drawing on ethnoprimatology, palaeontology, palaeoecology, and the study of rock art, hitherto largely overlooked by historians. In presenting a synthesis of human socio-cultural history and baboon ethology/ecology, it builds a conceptual bridge between conservation biology and history, helping us understand human-wildlife conflict. Historians can draw on various disciplines, synthesising them to produce a narrative that explains change over time, while deeply embedded in the specificities of the idiographic context. The project is, in essence, an interdisciplinary exchange between disciplines and a conversation between the deep past and the present.


Fellows involved in this project

South Africa

Share this project:

Share on whatsapp
Share on email
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Is any information on this page incorrect or outdated? Please notify Ms. Nel-Mari Loock at [email protected].