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Title: Reformism and transformism, 1809-1863 : literature and the emergence of social evolutionary ideologies
Author: Clifford, D.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2000
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Abstract:
This thesis begins with an overview of debates about heredity, politics and evolution in the period after Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, in order that the main body of the work can explore the ways in which early- to mid-nineteenth century reformist debates impacted on later evolutionary ideologies. It responds to recent work on the sociological application of Lamarckism, in particular that of Adrian Desmond, who identifies the influence of transformist ideas in early radicals among the working classes and the medical profession. My work argues that much of what we understand as 'Lamarckian' ideology from this early part of the century owes its definition to terms set out by the neo-Lamarckians in the 1880s. If we are to understand the importance of transformist thinking during this early period we must reposition ourselves to take into account the pre-Darwinian perspective. This in turn allows us a greater appreciation of the ways in which reformist ideology influenced later socio-political thinkers who sought an evolutionary theory to counter the social Darwinists. I argue that reformist literature from the mid-century exhibits the ideological prejudices, arising from changes in the evaluation of specialist knowledge and the criteria for proof, which would emerge more fully in the Lamarckism/Darwinism debates. In Chapter One, I review the prevalence of Lamarckian ideas in the nineteenth century up until publication of The Origin, concentrating in particular on the ways in which evolution was appropriated for socio-political purposes. I also examine how Lamarckian transformist ideas were both repudiated and propagated by Charles Darwin. In Chapter Two, I investigate the ways in which the public imagination responded to changes in its criteria for proof, as the 'natural theological' tradition conceded ground to 'natural law' science. I focus in public responses to Robert Chambers's transformist text Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (1844) in order to demonstrate how these changes were absorbed into broader ideologies of proof and knowledge.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.597777  DOI: Not available
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