One of the areas of fastest-growing interest in the humanities and social sciences in recent years has been the history of animals. Imperial Creatures fills a gap in that field by looking across species at animals in an urban colonial setting. If imperialism is a series of power relationships, Timothy P. Barnard argues, then it necessarily involves not only the subjugation of human communities, but also of animals. What was the relationship between those two processes in colonial Singapore? How did interactions with animals enable changes in interactions between people?
Through a multidisciplinary consideration of fauna, Imperial Creatures weaves together a series of tales to document how animals were cherished, monitored, employed, and slaughtered in a colonial society. All animals, including humans, Barnard shows, have been creatures of imperialism in Singapore. Their stories teach us lessons about the structures that upheld such a society and how it developed over time, lessons of relevance to animal historians, to historians of Singapore, and to urban historians and imperial historians with an interest in environmental themes.
Barnard, T. P. Imperial Creatures: Humans and Other Animals in Colonial Singapore, 1819-1942 (NUS Press, 2019).