1859 marked the start of a profound cultural crisis in Britain. Of the various triggers of this crisis, none was more significant than the publication of Charles Darwin’s evolutionary bombshell, On the Origin of Species. The transformations the Origin wrought, not just in biological sciences, but across theology, philosophy, anthropology and literature, are often portrayed as sudden and dramatic - as a paradigm shift. Yet examined from the point of view of the distinct responses of different generations across the fifty years after the publication of Origin, another picture emerges, one which calls into question our understandings of how cultural or intellectual crises really occur, and indeed how we conceive of historical change more generally.
Martin Hewitt is Professor of History at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK. He has published widely on nineteenth century Britain and on Victorian Studies as a field, and his most recent works include The Making of Social Knowledge in the Victorian City. The Visiting Mode in Manchester, 1832-1914 (2019), and The Dawn of the Cheap Press in Victorian Britain: the campaigns for the repeal of the taxes on knowledge, 1849-69 (2013). His current project seeks to examine the role of generations in Victorian Britain.