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Reviewed by:
  • Animal Welfare and Antivivisection 1870-1910: Nineteenth-Century Women’s Mission
  • Sally Mitchell (bio)
Susan Hamilton, ed. Animal Welfare and Antivivisection 1870–1910: Nineteenth-Century Women’s Mission (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 3 vols., pp. lxv + 390, 353, 311; $580.00, £375 cloth.

A new three-volume collection of nineteenth-century primary sources in Routledge's History of Feminism series, Animal Welfare and Antivivisection, includes a substantial introduction by Susan Hamilton, brief biographies of the Victorian scholars, scientists, journalists, novelists and activists whose writings are presented, and 103 documents photo-reproduced from the original sources. Hamilton has done an heroic job in tracking down these resources, which come not only from major periodicals covered in the Wellesley Index but also from medical journals, from Punch and Saturday Review and the Spectator, and from hard-to-find short-run papers and ephemeral pamphlets published by activists on several sides of the question.

The first volume contains most of Frances Power Cobbe's antivivisection essays from major periodicals and a sampling of the material she produced for the Victoria Street Society, though I'm sorry that it omits the very few pieces with a small taste of the biting humor she used so well in other causes. (The best of these, I think, are Science in Excelcis: A New Vision of Judgment [1875] and The Age of Science: A Newspaper of the Twentieth Century, which she published under the pseudonym "Merlin Nostradamus" in 1877.)

The second volume has other well-known names–Mona Caird, Anna Kingsford, Vernon Lee, Ouida–in addition to Victoria Street activists such as George Hoggan and Edward Berdoe. This volume also suggests the internal divisions that riddled the movement. Robert Lowe, an MP who helped draw up the 1875 antivivisection bill, was already complaining about some provisions in "The Vivisection Act" (Contemporary Review, October 1876). Selections from The Home Chronicler, a health-oriented periodical edited by surgeon Archibald Prentice Childs, reveal controversies about whether to publish disturbing illustrations and about women's role in public debates, as well as the recurring division between antivivisections who wanted to outlaw all experiments on living mammals and those who would allow licensed and carefully controlled procedures.

The third volume presents the other side: writing by experimental physiologists and their supporters. These materials usefully remind us of the foundations then being laid for major medical advances that would come in the early twentieth century–and also demonstrate the capacity of scientific men (as well as their opponents) for indulging in sentimental argument and virulent personal attacks. [End Page 75]

Susan Hamilton's intelligent introduction supplies an overview of the issues and suggests approaches for analyzing the late nineteenth-century vivisection controversy. The photo-reproduction of materials with original page numbers–and the "reviews" listing books that may go unmentioned in the essay itself–make this collection an extremely useful starting place for further research, as well as a source of documents valuable in their own right and (in many cases) very hard to find without the resources of a major library.

One odd mistake, which seems to grow from an omission in the table of contents, has the unfortunate consequence of mixing the "pro" and "con" personnel. "The Nineteenth Century Defenders of Vivisection" (Fortnightly Review, 1882) ends on page 59 in Volume II with the signature "COLERIDGE." Nowhere named in the editorial matter, John Duke Coleridge (1820–1894), 1st Baron Coleridge, appears in the 1881 listing of Victoria Street Society Vice-Presidents on page 330 as "The Lord Chief Justice of England." In the table of contents, however, Coleridge's "The Nineteenth Century Defenders of Vivisection" is combined with the following article from Fortnightly Review, "The Ethics of Vivisection," and credited to William B. Carpenter. As "The Ethics of Vivisection" reveals, Carpenter was a supporter (not an opponent) of animal experimentation; he described it as essential to "the 'antiseptic surgery' which constitutes by far the greatest single improvement ever introduced into Surgical practice." Carpenter and Cobbe, once close friends, had become bitterly estranged by early 1877; he responded to her unsigned "The Medical Profession and Its Morality" (Modern Review, April 1881)–included in Volume I–with a brutal...


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