Red Coats and Wild Birds

Online: Thursday, October 15, 2020 at 7 pm

During the 19th century, Britain maintained a complex network of garrisons to manage its global empire. During their tours abroad, many British officers engaged in formal and informal scientific research. Kirsten A. Greer tracks British officers as they moved around the world, just as migratory birds traversed borders from season to season. Greer examines the writings of a number of ornithologist-officers, arguing that the transnational encounters between military men and birds shaped military strategy, ideas about race and masculinity, and conceptions of the British Empire. Collecting specimens and tracking migratory bird patterns enabled these men to map the British Empire and the world and therefore to exert imagined control over it. Through its examination of the influence of bird watching on military science and soldiers’ contributions to ornithology, Red Coats and Wild Birds remaps empire, nature, and scientific inquiry in the nineteenth-century world.

Dr. Kirsten Greer is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Geography and History at Nipissing University, and the Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Global Environmental Histories and Geographies. Her CRC program addresses specifically reparations “in place” from Northern Ontario, Canada, to the Mediterranean and the Caribbean through interdisciplinary, integrative, and engaged (community-based) scholarship in global environmental change research. She is the author of Red Coats and Wilds Birds: How Military Ornithologists and Migrant Birds Shaped Empire (University of North Carolina Press, 2020). Greer is of Scottish-Scandinavian descent, from the unceded lands of Tiohtiàke/Montréal.