Ideology and Evolution in Nineteenth Century Britain: Embryos, Monsters, and Racial and Gendered Others in the Making of Evolutionary Theory and Culture, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Ideology and Evolution in Nineteenth Century Britain

Embryos, Monsters, and Racial and Gendered Others in the Making of Evolutionary Theory and Culture, 1st Edition

By Evelleen Richards


374 pages

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Hardback: 9781138607712
pub: 2020-06-09
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Written over several decades and collected together for the first time, these richly detailed contextual studies by a leading historian of science examine the diverse ways in which cultural values and political and professional considerations impinged upon the construction, acceptance and applications of nineteenth century evolutionary theory. They include a number of interrelated analyses of the highly politicised roles of embryos and monsters in pre- and post- Darwinian evolutionary theorizing, including Darwin’s; several studies of the intersection of Darwinian science and its practitioners with issues of gender, race and sexuality, featuring a pioneering contextual analysis of Darwin’s theory of sexual selection; and explorations of responses to Darwinian science by notable Victorian women intellectuals, including the crusading anti-feminist and ardent Darwinian, Eliza Lynn Linton, the feminist and leading anti-vivisectionist Frances Power Cobbe, and Annie Besant, the bible-bashing, birth-control advocate who confronted Darwin’s opposition to contraception at the notorious Knowlton Trial.

Table of Contents



1. "Metaphorical mystifications": The Romantic Gestation of Nature in British Biology

2. A Question of Property Rights: Richard Owen’s Evolutionism Reassessed

3. The "Moral Anatomy" of Robert Knox: The Interplay between Biological and Social Thought in Victorian Scientific Naturalism

4. A Political Anatomy of Monsters, Hopeful and Otherwise: Teratogeny, Transcendentalism, and Evolutionary Theorising


5. Darwin and the Descent of Woman

6. Huxley and woman’s place in science: The "woman question" and the control of Victorian anthropology

7. Redrawing the Boundaries: Darwinian Science and Victorian Women Intellectuals

8. "The greatest of all possible evils to mankind": Annie Besant vs. Darwin at the Knowlton Trial and Beyond

About the Author

Evelleen Richards is Honorary Professor in the School of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Sydney. She has published widely on the social analysis of contemporary scientific and medical controversies, with particular reference to the sociology of clinical trials, and on the contextual history of evolutionary biology. Her most recent book, Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection (2017), won the 2018 Suzanne J. Levinson Prize, awarded biennially by the History of Science Society for the "best book in the history of the life sciences and natural history".

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at [email protected]

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General