Day School: History - How Victorian England Reacted to Darwin's Unsettling News
This day school aims to provide an understanding of Charles Darwin’s life and works, his theory of natural selection and an account of how that came to be understood and (eventually) accepted by the public in late-Victorian Britain.
Additional information about this course
*Reading courses bookable from 1st July 2016* This course is not supported by the Skills Funding Agency and does not have a fee waiver. However, for Reading Branch courses students on an Income Related Benefit will be eligible for a 50% fee reduction only. PLEASE PHONE to enrol if you are on an Income Related Benefit as you cannot enrol online via the WEA website.
To provide an understanding of Charles Darwin’s life and works, and of how his theories came to be understood and (eventually) accepted by the public in late-Victorian Britain
Who is the course for?
What topics will this course cover
This day school is built around two main themes - (1) "deep time" – the consequences of an understanding of the geological record for established religion; and (2) the unsettling concept of transmutation of species – the differences between human and beast and the consequences for the human soul and a creator God. Specific topics include: • The early context – what ideas about evolution and geological timescales were understood in the early 19th century? • Darwin’s voyage on The Beagle and the insights gained from what he observed (and from the influences of contemporary academics) • Darwin’s “big idea” and why he kept it hidden for 22 years as he gathered evidence from correspondents to support it • Public appetite for general science at the time; the context of institutional concerns (including Parliament and the established Church) • The work of Alfred Russell Wallace, and its impact on Darwin • The Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) • Scientific, religious and public reactions to “Darwinism” – and to its application to humanity
What will it be like?
WEA classes are friendly and supportive. You will be encouraged to work together with your fellow students and tutor. You will be asked to share your ideas and views in the class and work with the group to give and accept feedback in a supportive environment. The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you to be actively involved in your learning. You may be asked to undertake work to support your course outside of your class.
By the end of the course I should be able to:
1. Identify the key events in Darwin’s life. 2. Explain the theory of Natural Selection as a mechanism for evolutionary change 3. Discuss the impact of Darwin’s scientific discoveries on the Church, British institutions and the general public
How will I know I'm making progress?
No formal assessemnt will be undertaken.
What else do I need to know, do or bring?
Nothing further required.
Reading and information sources
No reading is essential - the day school is self-contained. However, learners may wish to access Janet Browne’s academic biography of Darwin (1995), which is full and readable - vol. 1 Voyaging and vol. 2 The Power of Place A full record of Darwin’s works can be accessed at http://darwin-online.org.uk/
What could the course lead to?
A visit to Darwin’s home in Kent can be arranged here: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/home-of-charles-darwin-down-house/ More general academic courses on History of Science subjects can be found with the WEA.