The emperor’s giraffe

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The latest issue of the Journal of World History has my article on giraffes. You can get it here, here or here.

In the 15th century Chinese ships were traveling to Africa and as part of this trade a giraffe appeared at the court of the emperor in Beijing. A few decades later another giraffe appeared in Florence, Italy, as Amerigo Vespucci and his fellow sea captains were preparing to across the Atlantic. There is a puzzle here. In the 15th century, when the Chinese suddenly stopped their overseas discoveries, the Europeans began theirs. My idea is that the two giraffes could help tell us why.

There are already a few references to the article — here and here. Everyone loves reading about giraffes! It was fun writing about them too although I was terrified my LSE colleagues would find out and start suspecting I wasn’t taking my work seriously. Somehow comparative giraffology just isn’t good enough for a political scientist. Now I can finally come out of the closet with my giraffes (and if you ever spent any time in a closet with two giraffes you know how great that feels!)

The secret reason why I wrote this article is that I wanted to make a reference to one of the most amazing book I’ve ever come across in my various readings:

L.C. Rookmaaker, The Rhinoceros in Captivity: A List of 2439 Rhinoceroses Kept from Roman Times to 1994 (The Hague: SPB, 1998)


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