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Emily Aleev-Snow

MA work

'To Breed a Familiar League of Friendship, Love and Unity': Understanding the Practice of Falconry through its Material Mediators, 1400–1650

Humans and birds of prey have partnered in the practice of falconry throughout Afro-Eurasia for several thousand years. Until nearly the end of the early modern period falconry played a vital role as a motivator and mediator of trade, diplomacy and cultural exchange, as well as providing crucial theoretical backgrounding for notions of nobility and gentility, the class structures of human society, religious and spiritual debates and studies of the natural world. The widespread and deeply ingrained material and intellectual importance that has accrued to the practice of falconry (and to birds of prey) across geographies and time would be impossible without – and is fundamentally predicated upon – the relationship(s) built between humans and raptors.

The dissertation examines the material culture of early modern falconry, particularly focusing on the design and usages of falconry treatises, leather hoods and visual representations of falconry relationships, and how these may have constructed or reflected the perceptions and trajectories of these geographically – and temporally   contingent relationships. Through this investigation it is posited that by acknowledging the fundamental human/avian relationships and ensuing human/human relationships of falconry as design interactions constructed and mediated by the material culture of falconry practice – by examining those design interactions, not primarily from the human practitioner’s point of view, but rather from the perspective of the dynamic agency of the material objects involved – it is possible to gain a more well-rounded understanding not only of various human perceptions of falconry and the birds involved, but also of how the birds’ own agency might have defined those perceptions and interactions.


  • Emily Aleev-Snow
  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2014

  • I am an MA candidate on the Asian specialism of the V&A/RCA History of Design programme. My interests include early modern global histories and histories of technology and the natural world, with a focus on what objects can reveal about the sharing of knowledge across geographies and time. My research while on the course has ranged widely, with projects running the gamut from zoomorphic drinking vessels and trade in coconuts, to anomalous hydraulic clocks, to human/avian relationships and hood designs in falconry practice. Additionally, I am co-editor of the ‘Object of the Week’ column on Unmaking Things, an online creative platform run and edited by V&A/RCA History of Design students.

  • Degrees

  • BA East Asian Studies, Bryn Mawr College, 2004
  • Experience

  • Researcher and assistant to the Political Minister, Embassy of Japan in the United States, Washington, D.C., 2005–2010
  • Awards

  • V&A Travel Award, 2013
  • Conferences

  • 'To Breed a Familiar League of Friendship, Love and Unity: human/avian relationships in early modern falconry', Between Apes and Angels: Human and Animal in the Early Modern World Conference, University of Edinburgh, 4-6 December 2014 [forthcoming]; 'Empires of Glass: Bristol Manufacturers Isaac and Lazarus Jacobs and the Colonial Taste in Bottles', (with Angela McShane and Hannah Stockton, V&A/RCA), Imperial City: Bristol in the World Conference, UWE, 21-22 September 2013