'Friend, Servant, Creature': The Mutual Creation of Human and Animal Identities in Matthew Flinders’ Narrative of his Cat, Trim, c. 1800

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis


Inspired by the approach of the Italian microhistories, this paper explores A Biographical Tribute to the Memory of Trim – Matthew Flinders’ story of his cat – to investigate what the text reveals about humanity and animality. From the clues Flinders left behind, it seeks to piece together a picture of the co-creation of human and animal identity through the relationship between cat and crew. It uses the theory of ‘becoming in kind’ to illustrate how human identity and animal is shaped in their mutual interactions. The topics covered include masculinity, race, and the scientific colonial mission. In conclusion, the paper finds that in the writing of his narrative Flinders constructed his own identity as a maritime commander, revealed the patriarchal forces that were at work in forming this part of his character, and expressed his ideal of the sailor in his descriptions of Trim. The treatment of animals was very important for establishing racial divisions in Flinders’ text, as seen in the cases of Bongaree and the imagined slave on Mauritius. The men on the ship used play with a Trim as a form of bonding, free from the negative associations with intimacy, and were able to express their affectionate sides in conversations with him. Importantly, Trim’s ‘cathood’ was determined by his upbringing among sailors, as he developed into specifically a ship’s cat.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationMaster of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Uppsala University
  • Hunt, Margaret, Director of Studies, External person
Award date25 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020

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