Dr David Wilson

David WilsonHonorary Research Fellow

Contact Details


My specialist research area and publications concern both historical anthrozoology and the history of comparative psychology (the subject of my Leicester doctorate of 1999) as well as other studies of animal behaviour (pure and applied) especially in Britain, including interdisciplinary, institutional, professional, ethical, recreational, literary and military aspects.

External Contributions

I served as a member of the Peer Review College of the Arts and Humanities Research Council between 2009 and 2013, assessing and advising on the quality of research grant applications.
I continue to serve on the Editorial Board of Anthrozoös, a multidisciplinary academic journal of the interactions of people and animals, published for the International Society for Anthrozoology. I am also a reviewer for Ethnic and Racial Studies and Animals.
My historical research has been the basis of a 40-minute television documentary awaiting production. My research has also contributed to a new publication under the auspices of the Imperial War Museum, as part of commemorations of the First World War, and to similar commemorative material for BBC local radio.
Research material has been used for the BBC Coast series (1 July 2007). In addition to appearances on the BBC, I was asked to advise the BBC Natural History Unit about the thematic content and structure of a radio programme. From Vicars to Clones would investigate how the historic development of animal behaviour theory responded to and threw light on contemporary human interests, activities or preoccupations, in areas such as altruism, group loyalty, processes of learning, sexual morality, industrial efficiency, co-operation, and motivation.


  1. (2017) ‘Circus animals and the illusion of wildness’, Early Popular Visual Culture, vol. 15 (3), pp. 350-366.
  2. .(2015) The welfare of performing animals: a historical perspective. Berlin: Springer.
  3. (2011) ‘British animal behaviour studies in the twentieth century: some interdisciplinary perspectives’, in C. Blazina, G. Boyra, D. Shen-Miller (eds) The psychology of the human-animal bond: a resource for clinicians and researchers. New York: Springer, pp. 25-44.
  4. (2010) ‘Animal performance: interdisciplinary features of a special area of performing arts history’, Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History, vol. 15, pp. 7-16.
  5. (2009) ‘Racial prejudice and the performing animals controversy in early twentieth-century Britain’, Society and Animals. Journal of Human-Animal Studies, vol. 17 (2), pp. 149-165.
  6. (2009) ‘“Crank legislators”, “faddists” and professionals’ defence of animal performance in 1920s Britain’, Early Popular Visual Culture, vol. 7 (1), pp. 83-101.
  7. (2008) ‘Politics, press and the performing animals controversy in early twentieth-century Britain’, Anthrozoös, vol. 21 (4), pp. 317-337.
  8. (2006) ‘Avian anti-submarine warfare proposals in Britain, 1915-18: the Admiralty and Thomas Mills’, International Journal of Naval History, vol. 5 (1), pp. 1-25.
  9. (2004) ‘The public relations of experimental animal psychology in Britain in the 1970s’, Contemporary British History, vol. 18 (2), pp. 27-46.
  10. (2004) ‘Seagulls, sausage meat and the underwater ship’, Journal of Defence Science, vol. 9 (1), pp. 21-29.
  11. (2003) ‘British female academics and comparative psychology: attempts to establish a research niche in the early twentieth century’, History of Psychology, vol. 6 (1), pp. 89-109.
  12. (2002) ‘Animal psychology and ethology in Britain and the emergence of professional concern for the concept of ethical cost’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 33, pp. 235-261.
  13. (2002) ‘Experimental animal behaviour studies: the loss of initiative in Britain 100 years ago’, History of Science, 40, pp. 291-320.
  14. (2001) ‘A “precipitous dégringolade”? The uncertain progress of British comparative psychology in the twentieth century’, in G.C. Bunn, A.D. Lovie and G.D. Richards (eds) Psychology in Britain: historical essays and personal reflections. Leicester: British Psychological Society in association with the Science Museum, London, pp. 243-266.
  15. (2001) ‘Admiralty science, U-boats and the performing arts, 1916-1917’, Journal of Defence Science, vol. 6 (2), pp. 157-167.
  16. (2001) ‘Sea lions, greasepaint and the U-boat threat: Admiralty scientists turn to the music hall in 1916’, Notes and Records of The Royal Society, vol. 55 (3), pp. 425-455. (See also New Scientist, 14 February and 27 March 2004.)


  1. (2019) Hilda Kean The great cat and dog massacre. The real story of World War Two’s unknown tragedy. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2017. Anthrozoös, vol. 32 (3), pp. 437-439.
  2. (2017) Peta Tait Fighting nature: travelling menageries, animal acts and war shows. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2016. Anthrozoös, vol. 30 (3), pp. 521-522.
  3. (2016) Philip Howell At home and astray: the domestic dog in Victorian Britain. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2015. Anthrozoös, vol. 29 (1), pp. 171-172.
  4. (2012) Harriet Ritvo Noble cows and hybrid zebras: essays on animals and history. Charlottesville and London: University of Virginia Press, 2010. Anthrozoös, vol. 25 (2), pp. 247-249.


Conference Papers

  1. (2013) ‘“Samson making sport for the Philistines”: “wild nature” in the music hall and circus’, conference paper, British Animal Studies Network: Looking, University of Strathclyde, 26-27 April.
  2. (2012) ‘“Let us clear the stage and clear our conscience, too”: historic British campaigns against animal performance’, conference paper, The Arts and Sciences of Human-Animal Interaction, International Society for Anthrozoology, University of Cambridge, 11 July.
  3. (2011) ‘The performing animals controversy in early twentieth-century Britain: interdisciplinary perspectives’, public lecture and seminar, Centre for Animal Welfare and Anthrozoology, Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, 14 February.
  4. (2009) ‘How historic graphic art reflected aspects of the performing animals controversy in early twentieth-century Britain’, conference paper, Cross-overs: an Interdisciplinary Symposium, Scottish Society for Art History and the Subject Centre for History, Classics & Archaeology, 7 November.
  5. (2009) ‘Performing animals and illusions of nature’, conference paper, International Visual Sociology Association Conference, School of Humanities, University of Cumbria, 22-24 July.
  6. (2009) ‘British gulls versus the U-boat, 1915-17’, conference paper, 2009 International Academic and Community Conference on Animals and Society: Minding Animals, University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia, 17 July.
  7. (2009) ‘British sea lions and the “underwater ship”’, conference paper, 2009 International Academic and Community Conference on Animals and Society: Minding Animals, University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia, 14 July.
  8. (2002) ‘Ethical problems in animal behaviour studies: historical context and professional awareness in Britain’, public lecture, History and Philosophy of Science Seminar Series, School of Philosophy, University of Leeds, 23 October.

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