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Red Coats and Wild BirdsHow Military Ornithologists and Migrant Birds Shaped Empire$
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Kirsten A. Greer

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469649832

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469649832.001.0001

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Red Coats and Wild Birds across the British Empire

Red Coats and Wild Birds across the British Empire

(p.10) Chapter One Red Coats and Wild Birds across the British Empire
Red Coats and Wild Birds

Kirsten A. Greer

University of North Carolina Press

Chapter 1 situates the contributions of British military officers to the development of field ornithology from the traces and material remnants of their bird collections and specimens housed in museums across the British Empire, especially in Britain. Untangling the avian imperial archive explores how transimperial careers can be written using not only textual sources (e.g., biographies and personal correspondence) but also traces and artifacts of material culture, specifically bird skins as part of the avian imperial archive. By unraveling the avian imperial archive, the contributions of British military officers to the emergence of the field of zoogeography—a branch of biogeography concerned with the distribution of animal species across the globe—are put into sharp relief, illustrating the multiple avian-human entanglements in different parts of the British Empire, including in the Mediterranean. As both a fantasy of empire and a reflection of transient lives, avian scientific specimens in historical geographic research enrich our understanding of the intersections between science, empire, and the military.

Keywords:   zoogeography, avian imperial archive, British Empire, Ornithology, bird specimens, networks

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