Peter Sahlins’s 1668: The Year of the Animal in France (Zone Books, 2017)is a captivating look at the role of animals in court and salon culture in the first decades of Louis XIV’s reign in France. Focusing on the years in and around 1668, Sahlins shows how deeply the king, the court, and the anatomists, artists and writers around it thought with and through animals as Louis XIV redefined royal authority along the lines of absolutism. Through brilliant analyses of the Royal Menagerie and artistic and scientific studies of domestic and exotic fauna, Sahlins demonstrates how absolutism constituted a radical shift in worldview, not only regarding human animals, but the natural world as well.
Lance C. Thurner teaches history at Rutgers Newark. His research and writing address the production of knowledge, political subjectivities, and racial and national identities in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Mexico. He can be reached at email@example.com.