This paper argues for the need to create a more animal-centred history of medicine, in which animals are considered not simply as the backdrop for human history, but as medical subjects important in and of themselves. Drawing on the tools and approaches of animal and human–animal studies, it seeks to demonstrate, via four short historical vignettes, how investigations into the ways that animals shaped and were shaped by medicine enables us to reach new historical understandings of both animals and medicine, and of the relationships between them. This is achieved by turning away from the much-studied fields of experimental medicine and public health, to address four historically neglected contexts in which diseased animals played important roles: zoology/pathology, parasitology/epidemiology, ethology/psychiatry, and wildlife/veterinary medicine. Focusing, in turn, on species that rarely feature in the history of medicine – big cats, tapeworms, marsupials and mustelids – which were studied, respectively, within the zoo, the psychiatric hospital, human–animal communities and the countryside, we reconstruct the histories of these animals using the traces that they left on the medical-historical record.
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