England In The 19th Century


England In The 19th Century Essay, Research Paper

England went through dramatic changes in the 19th century.

English culture, socio-economic structure and politics where largely

influenced by the principles of science. Many social expressions

occurred due to these changes. Transformations which categorized this

time period could be observed in social institutions; for instance: the

switch from popular Evangelicalism to atheism, emergence of feminism and

the creation of new political ideologies (Liberalism, Conservatism and

Radicalism). These are just a few of the changes that took place. All

of this social alteration can be attributed to the importance of

science. The English people began to trust more in empiricism and

logical thought than in faith and glory of the empire . One who

contributed greatly to this transformation was Charles Darwin. In his

two most famous works, The Origin of Species and The Decent of Man,

Darwin introduces the concept of “the survival of the fittest” and

“natural selection”.

The Darwinian ideas introduced into English society justified a

great number of political policies and social movements. England at the

turn of the century was still a largest power in the international

system. The English perceived, through the justification of Darwinism,

they were fit to be the imperial hegemon in the world. The issue this

essay will deal with is Imperialism and how Darwinism justified its

practice. Darwin argued in his work, The Decent of Man, “When civilised

nations come into contact with barbarians the struggle is short except

where a deadly climate gives its aid to the native race. . . the grade

of civilisation seems to be a most important element in success in

competing nations.”(Darwin, Decent of Man, p. 297).

In this observation, Darwin connotated superiority to civilized

nations. In this same work, he referred to the indigenous people as

“savages, barbarians and tribal men”. This immediately transfers a

condescending attitude toward the “uncivilised people”. Darwin

classified them as tribes while the English and other Aryan cultures

were a race.

These claims of basic inequality gave the English the

“jurisdiction” philosophically, to exploit the colonies to a greater

level than previously attained. The drive to “Christianize” the

colonies was abandoned, politically. The view shifted from “owing the

primitive world” education and Christianity, to a more self-interested

“we English are naturally better”. Therefore, the we should be

exploiting you, because, that is why you are here.

Charles Darwin had a tremendous amount of influence on the

scientific community and the English population. It can be seen that

Darwinism played a large part in justifying the imperial behavior of

England. Darwin’s studies on nature and the behavior of animals had

unlocked “Pandora’s Box” in a manner of speaking. He studies reveal how

close to nature humanity really is. The English empire quickly saw

themselves as a dominant predatorial species of the world.

In conclusion, the English empire used Darwinian concept to

justify the on-going process of imperialism. Charles Darwin’s ideas

elevated the ego’s of the English people to over-estimate themselves

socially and globally. The affects of Darwinism can be seen throughout

the spectrum of social interaction both in the animal kingdom and human


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