The English philosopher Herbert Spencer (1820 - 1903) was a colossus of the Victorian age. His works ranked alongside those of Darwin and Marx in the development of disciplines as wide ranging as sociology, anthropology, political theory, philosophy and psychology.
In this acclaimed study of Spencer, the first for over thirty years and now available in paperback, Mark Francis provides an authoritative and meticulously researched intellectual biography of this remarkable man that dispels the plethora of misinformation surrounding Spencer and shines new light on the broader cultural history of the nineteenth century. In this major study of Spencer, the first for over thirty years, Mark Francis provides an authoritative and meticulously researched intellectual biography of this remarkable man. Using archival material and contemporary printed sources, Francis creates a fascinating portrait of a human being whose philosophical and scientific system was a unique attempt to explain modern life in all its biological, psychological and sociological forms.
Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life fills what is perhaps the last big biographical gap in Victorian history. An exceptional work of scholarship it not only dispels the plethora of misinformation surrounding Spencer but shines new light on the broader cultural history of the nineteenth century. Elegantly written, provocative and rich in insight it will be required reading for all students of the period.
Mark Francis is Professor of Political Science at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
'The publication of Mark Francis's volume marks a significant moment not just for Spencer scholarship but for all historians of late nineteenth-century science. A great achievement - the book that Spencer studies has needed for quite some time.' - British Journal for the History of Science
'A magisterial study which is likely to remain a standard reference on its subject for many years to come.' - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
'Francis has produced an important and intelligent book not only on Spencer, but also on his political, scientific, social, and religious context in mid-Victorian Britain. In relocating the assumptions about Victorian politics, social science, and evolutionary biology, this work deserves a wide audience, within and well beyond historical scholarship.' - The Historical Journal