Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, History, Columbia University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2009
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Bred to the Purple: Imperial Livestock and Colonial Places

"Bred to the Purple" explores the significance of "native" British breeds of livestock both in the context of the British Empire in the nineteenth-century, and in contemporary efforts to preserve rare or endangered "traditional" breeds of livestock. I trace the history of several British breeds from their place-specific origins within Britain in the early-nineteenth century to distant new homes in New Zealand and North America, and finally back again to Britain, where they are today classified as endangered "traditional" breeds. I examine how colonial environments altered livestock in both a physiological and a cultural sense, asking how, as livestock adapted to colonial environments, the cultural values and meanings they embodied shifted correspondingly. I analyze the role these animals played in cultural transmission between colony and metropole, and how they contributed to the foundation of imperial identities. By following the trail of two breeds, the Hereford cattle and Lincoln Longwool sheep, into present-day rare breeds conservation, I explore how these breeds came to be associated with certain places, cultural values, and aspects of human memory. What does designating breeds of livestock as "native" or "traditional" mean for ideas about nationality and the formation of human identities, and what do efforts to conserve these breeds reveal about the relationship between the past and the present in debates over cultural preservation and environmental heritage?