On topics ranging from intelligent design and climate change to the politics of gender and race, the evolutionary writings of Charles Darwin occupy a pivotal position in contemporary public debate.
This volume brings together the key chapters of his most important and accessible books, including the Journal of Researches on the Beagle voyage (1845), The Origin of Species (1859), and The Descent of Man (1871), along with the full text of his delightful autobiography.
They are accompanied by generous selections of responses from Darwin’s nineteenth-century readers from across the world. More than anything, they give a keen sense of the controversial nature of Darwin’s ideas, and his position within Victorian debates about man’s place in nature.
In this audio guide, the editor of the anthology, James A. Secord, Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project, introduces the reader to Darwin’s life and work – and its enduring impact two hundred years after his birth.
From beginnings to The Voyage of the Beagle
1. Charles Darwin was a far from outstanding schoolboy and his father worried about his future. He did however have an early and profound interest in the natural world. Click here to hear more about Darwin’s early life. [2:04]
2. Darwin’s participation in the voyage of the Beagle was a defining event in his life. But what was the purpose of the voyage and what did Darwin encounter on it that shaped his later ideas? Click here to find out.[4:00]
3. What sort of book is The Voyage of the Beagle and what impact did it have in Victorian England? Are there already hints in it about Darwin’s later theory of evolution? Click here . [1:34]
World of science
4. Some of the ideas that Darwin became interested in fell outside the sphere of respectable ideas for a Victorian man of science. Hear more about his secret notebooks by clicking here . [0:58]
5. Darwin entered the world of science at a time of huge ferment. In fact, the world “scientist” dates only from 1833, two years after Darwin set off on the Beagle voyage. Hear more about that changing world here . [1:31]
The Origin of Species
6.How did Darwin decide on the best way to present the theory of evolution to the public? Jim Secord explains the origins of the Origin here . [3:35]
7. Who read Darwin’s Origin of Species and how was it received? Jim Secord’s anthology represents a wide range of contemporary reactions to Darwin. Learn more about them here . [3:07]
The Descent of Man & and the ascent of charles darwin
8. The origin of man is not tackled head-on in The Origin of Species. For tactical reasons, that would have to wait until 1871, when Darwin published The Descent of Man. Listen to Jim Secord introduce it here . [1:56]
9. Photos and sculptures of Darwin in later life give him the aura of a saint or a sage. How aware was he of his self-image and what sort of recollections did he leave in his autobiography? Click here . [3:53]
10. What’s the idea behind Charles Darwin: Evolutionary Writings and where is the best place to start exploring Darwin’s writing? Hear Jim Secord’s suggestions here . [1:43]