Since I seem to have fallen back into a habit–goodness knows how long it will last–of posting here in a low-key way, here are three links to pages through which you can get to the audio files of talks I’ve given over the last few months and years that have found their way on-line, in case anyone is interested.
17 February 2011: ‘Why secular liberals need Roman Catholics (and Marxists)‘, a talk at ‘Republicanism and Religion: a colloquium in memory of Emile Perreau-Saussine’, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.
19 February 2014: ‘Towards a new, gendered history of property-owning democracy‘, a lunchtime Sussex University Lecture in Intellectual History.
15 May 2014: ‘Bees, Ants and Beavers in European Political Thought‘, an informal talk given to the King’s College Apicultural Society in Cambridge.
Elephants can count, over here.
The Third Earl of Shaftesbury on the Elephant (again):
But had Nature assign’d such an OEconomy as this to so puissant an Animal, for instance, as the ELEPHANT, and made him withal as prolifick as those smaller Creatures commonly are; it might have gone hard perhaps with Mankind: And a single Animal, who by his proper Might and Prowess has often decided the Fate of the greatest Battels which have been fought by Human Race, shou’d he have grown up into a Society, with a Genius for Architecture and Mechanicks proportionable to what we observe in those smaller Creatures; we shou’d, with all our invented Machines, have found it hard to dispute with him the Dominion of the Continent.
By special request, here’s a picture of Babar the Elephant (and Celeste).
They have a poster up in Blackwells café right now for “Babar et les ballons”, but the mood at the Stoa is that Babar looks best in a balloon when he’s waving his handkerchief from the balloon, as above.
I’ve just returned home after a period of wandering over the last few weeks that has taken me to Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Houston, Las Vegas, San Francisco — and to the elephant seals on the beach outside Hearst Castle.
Oxford seems unchanged, and I’m pleased to learn from the telly that Life of Brian was marketed in Sweden with the slogan, “The film that is so funny, it was banned in Norway”.
There’s a baby elephant in Chester, oddly enough. Over here. More here.
Following up on the Earl of Shaftesbury’s remarks about the elephant, below, we’re told today that elephants can pass the mirror test.
It seems to me to be only a short step from there to the necessary “Genius for Architecture and Mechanicks”, and then, I’m afraid, we will be finding it “hard to dispute with him the Dominion of the Continent”.
I don’t plan to get involved in this particular dispute. I intend to live in peace with the elephant, and as far as I’m concerned he (and she) can have the D of the C (though I’d still like to be able to visit France and Italy from time to time).
Seeing the title this post over at HM’s (it refers to the second clip) reminded me that I came across another passage the other day which can usefully join the set of beaver-blogging posts from this time last year which are assembled over here. It’s Anthony Ashley, Earl of Shaftesbury, reflecting on the animal kingdom, with a valuable reflection on the elephant as well as on the beaver:
Well it is perhaps for Mankind, that tho there are so many Animals who naturally herd for Company’s sake, and mutual Affection, there are so few who for Conveniency, and by Necessity are oblig’d to a strict Union, and kind of confederate State. The Creatures who, according to the OEconomy of their Kind, are oblig’d to make themselves Habitations of Defense against the Seasons and other Incidents; they who in some parts of the Year are depriv’d of all Subsistence, and are therefore necessitated to accumulate in another, and to provide withal for the Safety of their collected Stores, are by their Nature indeed as strictly join’d, and with as proper Affections towards their Publick and Community, as the looser Kind, of a more easy Subsistence and Support, are united in what relates merely to their Offspring, and the Propagation of their Species. Of these thorowly associating and confederate-Animals, there are none I have ever heard of, who in Bulk or Strength exceed the BEAVER. The major part of these political Animals, and Creatures of a joint Stock, are as inconsiderable as the Race of ANTS or BEES. But had Nature assign’d such an OEconomy as this to so puissant an Animal, for instance, as the ELEPHANT, and made him withal as prolifick as those smaller Creatures commonly are; it might have gone hard perhaps with Mankind: And a single Animal, who by his proper Might and Prowess has often decided the Fate of the greatest Battels which have been fought by Human Race, shou’d he have grown up into a Society, with a Genius for Architecture and Mechanicks proportionable to what we observe in those smaller Creatures; we shou’d, with all our invented Machines, have found it hard to dispute with him the Dominion of the Continent.
That’s from Shaftesbury, Characteristicks, vol.3 pp. 134-5 of the Liberty ed.
Norm’s post the other day discussed a very fine book – Harvey’s Hideout, by Russell Hoban – which I don’t think I’ve thought about in more than twenty years. Go and read the post, if you haven’t already, and go and read Harvey’s Hideout, if you haven’t done that either.
Mention of Russell Hoban also reminded me of a rather odd conversation I once had with my PhD supervisor, when we were trying to work out what kind of animal Frances was (as in Bread and Jam for Frances, etc., picture here). Badger and chipmunk were, I think, our preferred alternatives, though I don’t think that either of us was at all confident in our identifications. The matter was referred to his small daughter, who prononced that “Frances is a hairy creature!”, which was both indisputably true and good enough for me.
Fine though Russell Hoban’s children’s books are, my favourite writer of this kind of thing is probably Arnold Lobel, in particular for his magnificent volume Owl at Home (image here, discussion here). Owl really is a hero for our time, and Lobel’s five short stories about Owl’s day to day existence comprise some of the more imperishable pages in the history of world literature.
(Lobel’s Uncle Elephant is another fine book, a classic Bildungsroman, but with an elephant. This book is, however, one that I only ever encountered as an adult, which means that I will always react to it in a different set of ways to those other works mentioned above.)
Backed into a corner, with an image of an elephant behind me, here I am arguing about one of the footnotes in my dissertation, c.2003.
Sitting in a comfy chair, with the images of two elephants behind her, Josephine also argues about one of the footnotes in my dissertation, c.2003.
(I’m not sure history records the outcome of the argument, nor even the identity of the particular footnote.)
Photos by Adam Shapiro.
From Whipsnade Zoo:
On 4 December, London Zoo’s elephants were successfully moved to Whipsnade Wild Animal Park following the completion of the Park’s additional new facilities.
As part of the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), Mya, Layang Layang and Dilberta are now being integrated with the Whipsnade herd to join the conservation effort to save this endangered species. The three elephants have been settling into their new home and getting to know their companions: Whipsnade’s three female elephants Anna, Lucha and Kaylee, and Emmett, the bull elephant.
Moving elephants is a complex business and requires a lot of planning. It all went extremely smoothly and that was down to the expert team involved in the move. Encouraging signs are now being seen as the two elephant groups are integrated. Bonds are being formed between the females, in particular Layang Layang and Anna are becoming great friends.On arrival, the three London Zoo elephants were kept separately from the Whipsnade herd but as the new elephants were so calm, introductions to the resident females began soon after. To ensure that introductions went well, staff had to take into account all the elephants’ different personalities and their status within the two herds. Initially, they had visual contact, and then there were neighbourly greetings over the fence, involving a lot of trunk touching and snorting. Today they are mixed in different combinations as the settling-in process continues.
Whipsnade’s extended elephant facility, which is over seven acres, has five linked outside areas including a huge grass paddock as well as two separate houses. Visitors can see the elephants taking advantage of the many additional facilities designed specially for them. There are two pools, mud wallows and dust baths, as well as rubbing posts, shades for summer and high-level feeders.
As Emmett, the bull elephant, is rapidly maturing the new facilities have been designed to withstand his incredible strength, especially when he is in musth. Emmett has already proven himself as a breeding male, with two of Whipsnade’s original herd due to give birth this year. The new additional facilities have been designed particularly with him in mind as they will have to withstand the force of a 4 tonne elephant moving at 30 miles per hour.
The new Whipsnade herd, which is the largest group of breeding females in the UK, will play an important role in the European Endangered Species Programme as Asian elephants become even more threatened in the wild. With only 20,000 to 40,000 wild Asian elephants left, ZSL’s herd at Whipsnade will help to ensure that this species is not lost forever and will inspire our visitors to join our commitment to the conservation of this fantastic animal.
In memory of Jim Robson, Senior Keeper who was tragically killed at London Zoo in October 2001, some evergreen oaks will be planted at Whipsnade. Jim died working with the elephants he loved and it was felt to be appropriate to plant trees that will provide a supply of ‘browse’ on which future generations of Whipsnade elephants can feed.
It’s nice to know there was a lot of trunk touching and snorting. Good elephants! (Bad elephants, though, for trampling poor Jim Robson to death).