Splash or Ripple: The Effect of Darwinian Thought in Latter 19th and Early 20th Century North America

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Khan, Jon
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Lethbridge Undergraduate Research Journal
The paper is an overview of the historiography surrounding the impact of Darwinian thought in latter 19th and early 20th century North America. There definitely seems to be an intellectual trend to ignore the economic, social, religious, academic, and ideological contexts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In turn, some intellectuals posit Darwin as the maker of some dynamic pedagogical splash. My paper takes an alternative position on the subject and argues that while theoretical Darwinian thought may have been innovative, it was only one of many ancillary factors that in some contexts (1860-1910) had a minor influence and in others (1910-1935) had little to none. I argue that views that state otherwise completely misappropriate Darwinian Theory. I reach this claim by examining the effect of Darwinism on social thought in North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by tracing the links between Darwinian thought and theories that developed later. In addition, this paper examines the ways in which both social thinkers of the era under investigations and later, historical scholars, constructed (or misconstrued those influences). My methodology would be revisionist in that I call for a reconsideration of the proposed effects of Darwinian Theory. This paper advances the material based on Darwinian history in that it rejects the received view of history and calls for the stated reconsideration(s).
Darwin, Charles, 1809-1882