Against the Grain

Animals and Absolutism

What do animals have to do with absolutism? Can animal bodies and representations be used to justify authoritarian rule, or can they model forms of conduct expected of a ruler’s associates? According to Peter Sahlins, animals that lived and were depicted in the royal gardens of Versailles played a key role in Louis XIV’s reign, by, among other things, highlighting the violence and chaos that would presumably prevail in the absence of the Sun King’s absolute rule.

Peter Sahlins, 1668: The Year of the Animal in France Zone Books, 2017


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