Dr David Wilson

Honorary Research Fellow

School/Department: History Politics and International Relations, School of



After a career in museums I transferred to one in higher education in 1991 and retired in 2010 after leading the undergraduate programme in History at the new University of Cumbria.


My specialist research area and publications concern both historical anthrozoology and the history of comparative psychology (the subject of my Leicester doctorate of 1999) as well as other studies of animal behaviour (pure and applied) especially in Britain including interdisciplinary institutional professional ethical recreational literary and military aspects.


(2017) Circus animals and the illusion of wildness, Early Popular Visual Culture, vol. 15 (3), pp. 350-366.

(2015) The welfare of performing animals: a historical perspective. Berlin: Springer.

(2011) British animal behaviour studies in the twentieth century: some interdisciplinary perspectives, in C. Blazina, G. Boyra, D. Shen-Miller (eds) The psychology of the human-animal bond: a resource for clinicians and researchers. New York: Springer, pp. 25-44.

(2010) Animal performance: interdisciplinary features of a special area of performing arts history, Journal of the Scottish Society for Art History, vol. 15, pp. 7-16.

(2009) Racial prejudice and the performing animals controversy in early twentieth-century Britain, Society and Animals. Journal of Human-Animal Studies, vol. 17 (2), pp. 149-165.

(2009) Crank legislators, faddists and professionals defence of animal performance in 1920s Britain, Early Popular Visual Culture, vol. 7 (1), pp. 83-101.

(2008) Politics, press and the performing animals controversy in early twentieth-century Britain, Anthrozo, vol. 21 (4), pp. 317-337.

(2006) Avian anti-submarine warfare proposals in Britain, 1915-18: the Admiralty and Thomas Mills, International Journal of Naval History, vol. 5 (1), pp. 1-25.

(2004) The public relations of experimental animal psychology in Britain in the 1970s, Contemporary British History, vol. 18 (2), pp. 27-46.

(2004) Seagulls, sausage meat and the underwater ship, Journal of Defence Science, vol. 9 (1), pp. 21-29.

(2003) British female academics and comparative psychology: attempts to establish a research niche in the early twentieth century, History of Psychology, vol. 6 (1), pp. 89-109.

(2002) Animal psychology and ethology in Britain and the emergence of professional concern for the concept of ethical cost, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 33, pp. 235-261.

(2002) Experimental animal behaviour studies: the loss of initiative in Britain 100 years ago, History of Science, 40, pp. 291-320.

(2001) A 'precipitous degringolade?' The uncertain progress of British comparative psychology in the twentieth century, in G.C. Bunn, A.D. Lovie and G.D. Richards (eds) Psychology in Britain: historical essays and personal reflections. Leicester: British Psychological Society in association with the Science Museum, London, pp. 243-266.

(2001) Admiralty science, U-boats and the performing arts, 1916-1917, Journal of Defence Science, vol. 6 (2), pp. 157-167.

(2001) Sea lions, greasepaint and the U-boat threat: Admiralty scientists turn to the music hall in 1916, Notes and Records of The Royal Society, vol. 55 (3), pp. 425-455. (See also New Scientist, 14 February and 27 March 2004.)


I am willing to supervise in areas related to my research activities as described if practicable since I have an honorary appointment and I am based in Carlisle.


Now retired.

Press and media

Any topics related to my research activities as described.


I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. I served as a member of the Peer Review College of the Arts and Humanities Research Council between 2009 and 2013 assessing and advising on the quality of research grant applications. I continue to serve on the Editorial Board of Anthrozoƶs a multidisciplinary academic journal of the interactions of people and animals published for the International Society for Anthrozoology. I publish book reviews for this journal and review submissions to it. I am also a reviewer for Ethnic and Racial Studies and Animals.


BA in Ancient History & Archaeology 1972 and MA by research in Later Roman Documents 1979 University of Birmingham. PhD in the History of Comparative Psychology and Scientific Studies of Animal Behaviour in Britain 1999 University of Leicester.
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