Dark Trails: Animal Histories Beyond the Light of Day

Andrew Flack*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
49 Downloads (Pure)


Human engagements with dark-dwelling beings and the worlds in which they live have historically been shaped not only by relative levels of illumination but also by the sensorial chasm separating human experiences from that of countless animal others. The implications of this situation have largely escaped environmental and animal historians, who have mainly focused on the day as a space and time in which to situate their interrogations of interspecies engagements. This article sets an agenda for new animal and environmental histories of the night by illustrating the potential of an expansive environmental and animal historical turn toward the manifold darkness(es) of earth’s shadowy environments, beginning by drawing attention to the significance of historical consideration of the inherent diversity of darkness(es) across space and time. In doing so, it interrogates the ways in which naturalists and life scientists engaged with dark worlds, where their senses shaped their capacity to encounter nocturnal wildlife, and where variously entwined physical and technological strategies for “becoming nocturnal” were sometimes developed to draw people and animals into apparently closer proximity to each other. Finally, it explores the supposed secrets contained within the dark natural world, illustrating the ways in which darkness and the limits of human adaptive abilities framed engagement with the kinds of research questions naturalists and life scientists posed of the night in historically contingent ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-241
Number of pages27
JournalEnvironmental History
Issue number2
Early online date14 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Forest History Society and American Society for Environmental History. All rights reserved.


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