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Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection$
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Evelleen Richards

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226436906

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226437064.001.0001

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The Post-Descent Years: Sexual Selection in Crisis, Female Choice at Large

The Post-Descent Years: Sexual Selection in Crisis, Female Choice at Large

(p.466) Fourteen The Post-Descent Years: Sexual Selection in Crisis, Female Choice at Large
Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection

Evelleen Richards

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 14 explores the response to the Descent through Darwin’s late Victorian readership, not simply his scientific readers, but the wider reading public who variously adopted, adapted, or rejected his theory of sexual selection. The criticisms of its major scientific opponents, St. George Mivart and Alfred Russel Wallace, are assessed. As sexual selection (along with natural selection) went into eclipse, female choice was seized upon by an array of social purists, eugenicists, sexual reformers, birth controllers, feminists and socialists, notably Wallace, who in a volte face in1890 advocated a post socialist world in which free and informed female choice would guide the future direction of humanity. Thomas Henry Huxley’s reaction to all this is analysed through the content and context of his famous Romanes lecture.

Keywords:   Descent of Man, criticisms, Alfred Russel Wallace, St. George Mivart, female choice, birth controllers, socialists, feminists, Thomas Henry Huxley, Romanes lecture

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