2000 Years of History

version française

Research to Date


Notes and References

The growing social conflict between those who support the return of wolves and those who oppose it gives additional pertinence to this historical investigation. At a time when we are re-thinking man’s place in the world, and particularly his impact on the environment, taking history into account allows us to enhance the debate about the management of territories, with public authorities and associations focusing their involvement on symbolic species. A scientific assessment is required, to accompany the dialogue between the various parties involved (livestock farmers, hunters, ecologists, state officials and scientists), and in order to allow well-informed political decisions.
In France, aside from the contributions of sociologists and anthropologists like Isabelle Mauz and Sophie Bobbé, ethnologists like Nicolas Lescureux, and more recently geographers like Farid Benhammou, no historian has intervened to participate in the reflection.1 The regrettably early death of Alain Molinier, who in the 1980s launched an initial research program on the wolf threat, for the CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research), led us to return to the historical research on new bases. 2 The equally premature loss of François de Beaufort, who in 1988 wrote the first historical ecology thesis on the subject, paved the way, but there was still much to be done.3 Our study fills this gap: it increases the interdisciplinary and international breadth of the work, by applying the combined perspectives of humanities and the life sciences to past management.
At European level, existing historical works are either sectoral or too general.4 In 2002, the Norwegian Minster of the Environment supported a first review of wolf attacks on humans worldwide, edited by John Linnell.5 The work was based on sources from around the world, cross-referenced and compared thanks to the efforts of researchers from various countries, in order to offer an overview. Based on these sources, and by looking at the historical facts alongside more recently recorded cases in the Middle East, Asia, or North America, it was possible to pinpoint (without any real detail) various aspects of the phenomenon. These included the typology, victimology, and socio-environmental contexts of the attacks. Since 2000, the Asturias National Park has supported research on the evolution of wolves, bears, and lynx. However, the resulting publications have been limited to the western sector of the Cantabrian Mountains over the last three centuries.6 From the early 1990s, in Spain, the works of Teruelo and Valverde shed light on wolf attacks on humans in Galicia and the north of Portugal in the 20th century, but there is a lack of specific studies on the rest of the Iberian peninsula. The conference Llops o Humansa Catalunya del passat al present (“Wolves and men in Catalonia. from past to present”) (6-8 November 2008) allowed Spanish researchers to draw attention to this gap in research.7 In Italy, the wolf threat has been the subject of collective research, which uses comparisons and extensions, but geographically, it concerns only Piedmont and Lombardy.8 Other contributions within the international set of sources have provided information on confrontations between wolves and humans, particularly for Scandinavia, Russia, Asia, and North America.9

In light of this observation, it seems useful to extend the timescale (to before the 19th century) and to vary the geographical scales (from local, to regional and national), by looking directly at the sources themselves, in order to provide a methodical inventory and a baseline survey. Initially, the corpus provided on this site looks at the whole of France. This territory has a wide variety of landscapes, and there was a significant wolf population until the second half of the 19th century, with wolves gradually returning over recent decades from neighbouring countries. Excluding a few older testimonials, the 500 years from the final decades of the Hundred Years’ War to the 1930s provides a heavily documented chronological series on the wolf presence and the conflicts it caused in societies. This documentation is astonishingly rich for the whole French territory, as well as Europe, but it is also very scattered: much preparatory work and many trips to various archives were required in order to take it into account. What makes this program different is that it proposes a long-term historical reflection on a general-interest, socio-environmental issue, from the end of the Middle Ages to the present day. Is also offers the opportunity to open up communication between complementary scientific disciplines, starting with the humanities and social sciences.


Notes and References

1 Isabelle Mauz, Gens, cornes et crocs, Paris, Cemagref, 2005, 256 p. ; Sophie Bobbé, L'ours et le loup. Essai d'anthropologie symbolique, Paris, MSH, 2002, 258 p. ; Nicolas Lescureux, Maintenir la réciprocité pour mieux coexister ? Ethnographie du récit Kirghiz des relations dynamiques entre les hommes et les loups, thèse Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 2007, 405 p. multigr. ; Farid Benhammou, Crier au loup pour avoir la peau de l'ours. Une géopolitique locale de l'environnement à travers la gestion des grands prédateurs en France, thèse AgroParisTech, 2007, 664 p. multigr.
2 Alain Molinier et Nicole Molinier-Meyer, « Environnement et histoire : les loups et l'homme en France », Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine, xxviii, avril-juin 1981, p. 225-245 ; Alain Molinier, « État des recherches sur les loups en France à la fin du xviiie siècle et au début du xixe », in Histoire et animal. Actes du colloque international « homme, animal, société », Toulouse, 11-16 mai 1987, Presses de l'IEP de Toulouse, Toulouse, 1989, t. II, p. 457-462 ; Alain Molinier et Nicole Molinier-Meyer, « Les loups et la rage d'après la correspondance des autorités départementales et du Ministère de l'Intérieur sous la Révolution et l'Empire », ibid., 1989, t. II, p. 463-470.
3 François Grout de Beaufort, Le Loup en France : éléments d'écologie historique, Paris, Société française pour l'étude et la protection des mammifères, 1987, coll. « Encyclopédie des carnivores de France », 32 p. ; François Grout de Beaufort, Écologie historique du loup, Canis lupus L. 1758, en France, thèse d'État ès Sciences, université de Rennes I, 1988, 1074 p. multigr.
4 Hans Kruuk, Hunter and Hunted. Relationships between carnivores and people, Cambridge UP, 2002, 264 p. ; Will N. Graves, Wolves in Russia. Anxiety through the Ages, Calgary, 2007, 223 p.
5 John D. C. Linnell et al., The Fear of Wolf. A review of wolf attacks on humans, Trondheim, NINA Oppdragsmelding, 731, janvier 2002, 65 p.
6 Juan Pablo Torrente, Osos y otras ferias en el pasade de Asturias (1700-1860), Oviedo, 1999, 535 p.
7 Josep Maria Massip, « El llop blanc dels ports. Noves dades d'uns anystràgics »  [5 enfants victimes d'un loup prédateur en Catalogne en 1838-1839], Mètode, 78, 2012, p. 9-13
8 Mario Cominchini (ed.), L'Uomo e la « bestia antropofaga ». Storia del lupo nell'Italia settentrionale dal XV al XIX secolo, Unicopli, 2002, 338 p.
9 Evert Pousette, De Människoätande Vargarna, Arkeo-Förlaget, 1989, 166 p. ; Ilmar Rootsi, "Man-eater wolves in 19th century Estonia", publication du symposium "Baltic Large Carnivore Initiative", Human dimensions of large carnivores in Baltic Countries, pp. 77-89. Pavlov, Wolf, Moscow, 1982 ; Rajpurohit, "Child lifting: wolves in Hazaribagh, India", Ambio28, pp. 162-166. McNay, A Case History of Wolf-Human Encounters in Alaska and Canada, Alaska Department of Fish and Game,Wildlife Technical Bulletin, 13, 2002.