Evolution and the Victorians: Science, Culture and Politics in Darwin's Britain
Jonathan Conlin

Evolution and the Victorians: Science, Culture and Politics in Darwin's Britain

Charles Darwin’s discovery of evolution by natural selection was the greatest scientific discovery of all time. The publication of his 1859 book, "On the Origin of Species", is normally taken as the point at which evolution erupted as an idea, radically altering how the Victorians saw themselves and others. This book tells a very different story. Darwin's discovery was part of a long process of negotiation between imagination, faith and knowledge which began long before 1859 and which continues to this day.

Evolution and the Victorians provides historians with a survey of the thinkers and debates implicated in this process, from the late eighteenth century to the First World War. It sets the history of science in its social and cultural context. Incorporating text-boxes, illustrations and a glossary of specialist terms, it provides readers with the background narrative and core concepts necessary to engage with specialist historians such as Adrian Desmond, Bernard Lightman and James Secord. Conlin skilfully synthesises material from a range of sources to show the ways in which the discovery of evolution was a collaborative enterprise pursued in all areas of Victorian society, including many that do not at first appear "scientific".

Book Details:

  • Author: Jonathan Conlin
  • Published Year: 2014
  • Rights Sold
    • UK: Bloomsbury Academic

Jonathan Conlin

Jonathan Conlin was born in New York and later moved to Britain, where he studied history at Oxford. He went on to do graduate work at the Courtauld Institute and Cambridge, becoming a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College in 2002. During this period he spent long periods in Parisian archives, developing an interest in the history of Anglo-French relations. Since his appointment to the University of Southampton in 2006 he has taught courses on a unusually wide range of topics, from the moral philosophy of Adam Smith through the history of cemeteries to the impact of evolution on Victorian society...
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Book Reviews

  • "The cultural context Conlin delineates in this study contains numerous interesting insights for the specialist historian too. Although the author acknowledges his debt to the work of Adrian Desmond, James Moore, and Peter Bowler, the text offers many original observations on the subject...Conlin reminds the reader of the central point underlying his main argument, namely: "Whose interests does science serve?" Conlin skillfully explores this question in his considerations of the different approaches to, and uses of, evolution in Victorian culture. Evolution and the Victorians is a fascinating read and is recommended to all those interested in nineteenth-century history."
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