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Dr Andrew J P FlackBA (Bristol), MA (Bristol), Ph.D


Andy Flack

Dr Andrew J P FlackBA (Bristol), MA (Bristol), Ph.D


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Research interests

I am an animal and environmental historian, working primarily on human engagementsa with the non-human animal world across the nineteenth and twientieth centuries. 

Present research interests:

My new major research project confronts the so-called 'nocturnal problem': the challenge of understanding nature by night. 'Dark Frontiers' investigates nineteenth- and twentieth-century scientific and popular engagement with animals that dwell in dark environments. Focusing on caves, deep sea, the poles and urban night-time environments more broadly, the project is structred around a number of key research questions:

1. how have new technologiees allowed naturalists to colonise the night in search of the secrets of animal bodies and behaviours?

2. what have been the consequences of this colonisation of the dark on animals and environments?

3. how have understandings of the ways in which animals sense the world in darkness changed over time and how did this impact on changing notions of what it meant to be human?

As a side project, I have collaborated with the University of Bristol Speleological Society to conduct oral histories with their members about their memories of learning to navigate the dark worlds beneath our feet. 

A sight-impaired historian, I also have an activist and intellectual interest in disability studies. My work on dark environments is also, in some ways, about what it means for vision to be obscured and the adapatations - of humans and animals - that allow for surviving and thriving in those conditions. 

Previous research

My doctoral research focused on the animal and environmental histories of Bristol Zoo Gardens from 1835. This work represents the first extensive academic history of a provincial zoo, examining the vast array of human relationships with animals and their wild worlds in modernity. My work engaged with themes at the very forefront of animal, environmental, and imperial histories. In particular, I examined the human commodification of nature, its transformation into objects of science and spectacle, the creation of ‘almost-people’, animals in death (and dying), and human understandings of the world in an era of ecological impoverishment. Most significantly, I worked on the ways in which captve creatures might be said to have 'agency' in a context often perceived to be wholly oppressive. This work followed on from my earlier study of the phenomenon of celebrity beasts in Victorian culture, and human-nature conflict on the Australian frontier in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Also emerging form these interests have been a conference on the theme of Animals and Empire in 2013; the curation of an exhibition by the same name for the Animal History Museum in Los Angeles in 2014; and work as part of the REACT Object Sandbox cohort.

I am presently engaged in a city-wide immersive Brigstow Institute project with Trigger and the School of Geographical Science's Dr Merle Patchett. 


Media engagements include a forthcoming appearance on BBC Inside Out West. I have previously appeared on BBC 4’s Timeshift and consulted for an episode of Great British Railway Journeys. I have also appeared on Points West, radio programmes, and have recently consulted on the BBC's 'What are zoos for?' iWonder project.


I have a wealth of teaching experience. During the 2019-20 session I shall be teaching

  • War and Society (Yr 1)
  • Wild Things: humans and other animals in the modern world (Yr 2)
  • Filming the Past (Yr 3)
  • The Holocaust on Trial: History, Law, and Memory (Yr. 3)

In the past I have taught:

  • Approaching the Past (Yr 1)
  • Introduction to the British Empire (yr 1)
  • Rethinking History (Yr. 2)
  • Britain's Cold War (Yr 1)
  • Travels in Space and Time (Yr 2)
  • The American West: An Environmental History (Yr 2)
  • Bringing History (and Historians) Down to Earth (Yr 3)
  • Genocide (Yr3)
  • History, Law and Memory: The Holocaust on Trial (Yr3)

I also supervise undergraduate and postgraduate dissertations and supervised individual studies. I am presently supervising an MPhil student on histories of urban travel.

I invite research degree proposals on the following subjects:

 - animal history

 - animal captivity

 - environmental history and the senses

 - histories of science and technology

 - landscape and travel

Structured keywords and research groupings

  • IASworkshop
  • Centre for Environmental Humanities
  • Centre for Humanities Health and Science
  • Cabot Institute City Futures Research
  • Cabot Institute Environmental Change Research

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Postal address:
13-15 Woodland Road
United Kingdom