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The Tower Menagerie: The Amazing True Story of the Royal Collection of Wild Beasts Hardcover – 3 Mar 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd; 1st edition (3 Mar. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743220811
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743220811
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 13.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 987,009 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'Graceful [and] witty . . . Hahn guides his ark of the animals across six centuries. It enchants' -- Guardian

'Hahn has a colourful and lively story to tell, and he does so with gusto . . . There is much to inform and entertain' -- Sunday Telegraph

'Hahn's avuncular history has done well to conjure [the Menagerie's] sights and smells back to life with such vivid immediacy' -- The Times

'Packed with odd little did-you-knows . . . It is a pleasure to be given this extraordinary glimpse into the history of our national identity' -- Independent

From the Publisher

Advance praise for THE TOWER MENAGERIE:

'A captivating insight into the origin of zoos, the human zoo uncaged.'

'...a charming book, full of strange scholarship, fascinating social science and the sheer comedy of life. I found THE TOWER MENAGERIE irresistible.'

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By PK on 6 April 2003
Format: Hardcover
This isn't really a book about a zoo. Amazingly, it's more of a trip through various years of human history with the zoo as a recurring reference. Daniel Hahn manages to weave in and out of people, ideas and events and pulls them together in a way you wish your history teacher had done back at school.
In a sprightly fashion, we get a complete picture of six centuries of human development and man's relationship with animals. This is done through various stories linking culture, science and politics.
As a quick sample: we learn how John Wesley had flute music played to the animals to determine if they had a soul; we cover the continuous links between lions and the British monarchy; there is political intrigue and concern at Darwin's theory of evolution; and we find out the origin of bull and bear stock markets.
This brings me to, what I call, the information-on-the-side in this book, which acts as a wonderful source of interest. Daniel Hahn gives Oliver Sacks a run for his money with his fascinating asides and footnotes and then wins hands-down by making them some of the funniest things ever written.
This book is a delight from start to finish. It's thoughtful, fascinating and packed with history, insight and wonderful observations. I urge you to read it - you'll love it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Loveitt on 12 April 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting and entertaining look at the Royal Menagerie, which was kept in the Tower of London from 1235 until 1835. Daniel Hahn explains how the menagerie started as just a place to keep a single gift of three leopards that had been given to King Henry III. It expanded over the years to include other gifts from visiting royalty, as well as animals brought back by various explorers. Originally, only V.I.P.'s could get in to see the collection but later on the public were also admitted....if a person could afford the price of a ticket. However, if you couldn't afford to pay your way in, you were allowed to donate the family dog or cat, to be used to feed the animals! The menagerie, unlike zoos today, originally had no true educational purpose. It did serve to satisfy curiosity about what previously unknown animals did look like, but in those violent days people mostly wanted to be entertained. So, for example, fierce dogs would be thrown in with a lion and people got to watch the resulting fracas. If no fights were scheduled, you could at least get to watch the inmates of the menagerie being fed fresh (meaning still living) meals! Mr. Hahn does a nice job of tracing the changes in how the menagerie was operated, as society changed. Originally, people didn't think that animals had any rights, so the animals were treated poorly. They lived in cramped conditions and the keepers were ignorant concerning what the animals should be fed. They were especially stumped by herbivores. They tried feeding a beaver with bread and they gave an elephant only wine to drink. Many years later, when people started to think that animals deserved decent treatment, living space was expanded and efforts were made to keep the animals clean and comfortable.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 22 Mar. 2003
Format: Hardcover
I had never heard of the menagerie at the Tower of London so was amazed to find out it existed for 600 years and was effectively Britain's first zoo. This book is not just an entertaining history of the menagerie, it also looks at Britain's wider history too, and there are some beautiful colour pictures. Highly recommended.
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