On the Side of the Angels?

Anthrozoological Explorations

I thought I would post a bit more about 19th-century responses to Darwin and what this meant in terms of how Victorians represented and related to other primates, as explored in my work for the anthrozoology course.

Disraeli’s well-known speech, given at Oxford in 1864, reflects the fundamental issue that many Victorians grappled with in the aftermath of Darwin’s publication of Origin of Species:

“What is the question now placed before society with a assurance the most astounding! The question is this:  Is man an ape or an angel?  My Lord, I am on the side of the angels.”      (Irvine, 1955:1)

Prior to that, in 1860, Wilberforce and Huxley first ignited the debate at an Oxford meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (Browne, 2001:500).  The similarities between humans and other great apes had been noted by English naturalists as early as the 1600s, for…

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