How Victorian England Reacted to Darwins Unsettling News

Ref: C2225408

This course is built these themes: (1) deep time – the consequences of an understanding of the geological record for established religion, and (2) the concept of transmutation of species – the differences between human and beast and the consequences for the human soul and a creator God. It will cover: • 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 • Darwin’s “big idea” (the Theory of Natural Selection) and why he kept it hidden for 22 years • 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 • The Origin of Species (1859) • Scientific, religious and public reactions to “Darwinism” – and to its application to humanity • The Descent of Man (1871) • Darwin’s legacy

Course aim

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

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Identify the key events in Darwin’s life.
  • Understand the theory of Natural Selection as a mechanism for evolutionary change
  • Discuss the impact of Darwin’s scientific discoveries on the Church, British institutions and the general public during the mid-Victorian era.
  • Analyse Darwin’s legacy today

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • Nothing else is needed

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading or pre course work is required
  • Janet Browne’s academic biography of Darwin (1995) 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

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • A visit to Darwin’s home in Kent can be arranged here:

Download full course information sheet

How Victorian England Reacted to Darwins Unsettling News


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact

Visa Credit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Debit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Electron payments supported by RBS WorldPay Mastercard payments supported by RBS WorldPay Maestro payments supported by RBS WorldPay JCB payments supported by RBS WorldPay Solo payments supported by RBS WorldPay
RBS WorldPay Payments Processing